Daniel R. Glickman, the new director of the Institute of Politics (IOP), delivered an informal speech to a group of Harvard Summer School students on Tuesday.
Glickman, who served as secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration after having represented Kansas in Congress for 18 years, gave a brief account of his political career before opening the floor for questions.
The discussion covered a variety of subjects, from why former Vice President Al Gore ’69 lost the 2000 presidential election to the benefits and drawbacks of genetically engineered food.
“Chances are,” Glickman said, picking up a bag of potato chips provided for the event, “these were made from genetically engineered plants, since one-third of the corn and two-thirds of the soybeans in the country are grown from genetically engineered seeds.”
Glickman, whose former duties included overseeing national food safety policy, said he did not have health concerns about genetically engineered foods—adding that he saw potential for some modified products to have health benefits.
“My own belief is that [genetic engineering] doesn’t have any negative effect on food safety,” Glickman said. “In fact, my prediction is that in 10 to 15 years we’ll have foods with things that fight cancer in them.”
Glickman—who helped design the FDA’s food pyramid—also discussed the potential role of diet as part of the U.S. health care system. Health insurance companies currently do not take preventative measures such as a healthy diet into consideration.
“In the next several years I believe that diet is going to be much more of a factor in health care,” Glickman said.
Glickman also discussed politics briefly, saying he plans for the IOP to have many events dealing with this fall’s upcoming elections.
“I want to focus on the off-year elections because I think they’re important—get people engaged in the 2004 election, and get speakers who will talk about issues that get people charged up,” said Glickman, who lost his 10th campaign for Congress in an off-year election.
But Glickman said he will not make too many plans until hearing from student members of the IOP.
“One of the things I’ve got to do is listen to the students, and until school starts and the students get in here I won’t be changing much,” he said.