Health Alert: Food altering

NATIONAL (NBC) - Thousands of children in developing nations die of starvation every day. Scientists at UC Davis are working on a new technology to bring healthier food to more people, yet critics wonder if genetic engineering of food is safe.

Seed biotechnology - critics call it food altering, but scientists believe engineering the gene makeup of crops like rice can increase food production while also making it more nutritious.

UC Davis professor Kent Bradford said, "If we're going to double or triple food production without taking over rain forests, marginal lands, areas for wildlife and so on, then we have to be able to produce crops very efficiently and at high yield."

Researchers are convinced the new technology can help feed more people around the world in a way that's better for the environment.

Jorge Mayer, with Golden Rice Humanitarian Foundation, said, "You can reduce the use of pesticides by introducing a gene that is not available in the genetic diversity of a crop and reduce the use of pesticides."

But critics from the environmental community say they are troubled by the concept of modifying the genetic code for crops.

Dan Jacobson, with Environment California, said, "There's nothing wrong with feeding the world. The questions and concerns that we have are - is it a safe way to feed the world? And that hasn't been proven at all yet."

But the scientists insist the technology is safe and that genetically engineered crops are already in production on 200 million acres worldwide.

The controversy over genetic engineering is not going away any time soon.

Critics say they want altered food to be labeled and clearly marked, so consumers can know exactly what they're eating.