Bill Nye Dishes On GMO Foods And His Partnership With Dr Pepper - Exclusive Interview

Kids of the '90s undoubtedly remember Bill Nye from his role in "The Science Guy" show which made learning about science all the more fun and enjoyable for elementary and middle school students across the United States. But after the show, Nye did not end his mission to impact kids' education or his desire to help educate the American public on pressing issues such as GMO foods and climate change. While Nye has certainly taken to social media among other channels to bring back his voice to speak to the science of today's issues, he also hasn't given up on helping students reach their full potential. That's why he is representing Scholarship America in partnership with Dr. Pepper. 

Together, the organization and soda brand are donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for students' college tuition this year. It's an incredible act that will, of course, greatly impact many hopeful students. It's only natural that Nye would be the perfect person to represent the effort thanks to all the students, many of whom are now adults, who know and feel the nostalgic pull "The Science Guy" has. That's why Mashed interviewed Nye to find out more about his part in the campaign as well as a few of his views on food. 

Bill Nye on his partnership with Dr. Pepper

Tell us about representing Scholarship America.

I'm delighted to be working with Scholarship America and Dr Pepper on their annual tuition giveaways, including the first-ever FANraiser fundraising initiative. Let's face it, there are a lot of students out there in need of tuition assistance to pursue the education of their dreams, and these tuition giveaways will help make that possible for so many deserving young scholars across the nation.

You've inspired so many kids. What do you hope scholarship recipients take away from their higher education?

Education has always been something I have felt passionately about, starting with "The Science Guy Show" in the '90s. I hope that the scholarship funds allow students to fully immerse themselves in their courses, and that the lessons they are learning now will leave them inspired and well-prepared for whatever it may be that the future holds for them.

What's your favorite thing about working with Dr Pepper towards enabling more students to go to college?

Dr Pepper understands the importance of higher education. To date, Dr Pepper has given away over $12 million in tuition funds to students across America, and this year, Dr Pepper is awarding over $650,000 through its partnership with Scholarship America. Dr Pepper and Scholarship America are giving students a chance to follow their dreams by pursuing careers as scientists, engineers, physicians, or any profession for which they have passion. I think that's fantastic.

Bill Nye dishes on his favorite foods

What's one dish every college freshman should know how to make?

Everyone should know how to make a spinach pizza.

What's your favorite fast food chain, and what do you order there?

My favorite fast food chain is McDonald's. I like to order their French fries from time to time.

Do you have a favorite dish to cook at home?

I enjoy cooking fresh French bread or salmon on the grill.

What do you wish people realized about the science of cooking?

Cooking is chemistry; it's a science. That's what I wish people realized. Gavin Sacks is chemist at Cornell (my alma mater). Someone asked him if it's true that 99% of what we eat and drink is made of chemicals. He said, "You're close, but no. It's 100%. Everything you eat and drink is made of chemicals." The ingredients in any recipe are made of chemicals. When you cook, you control chemical reactions. It's all about how those ingredients are mixed, at what temperature, and for how much time. Cooking is all science. That's part of why I love it. (I mention Dr. Sacks in my recent book, "Bill Nye's Great Big World of Science.")

Bill Nye on the safety of GMO foods

Do you still believe GMO foods are safe for consumption and the environment?

GMO foods are safe as can be. They are tested and tested. If you think about [it], you'll realize that farming is not really natural. If humans stop farming, the land goes back to being whatever it was before, a forest or prairie. Same is true for ocean or lake farming. I used to worry that we weren't being careful enough with genetically modifying our food crops, even though farmers have been modifying their crops for thousands of years, mixing pollen from one plant with the egg cells (ova) of another, and selecting seeds for desirable traits. I looked into it. Turns out, we are very careful with our crops. In the last 50 years or so, botanists have found ways to speed the process of mixing genes by getting the genes of one organism, like a microbe, to mix its genes with another organism, like corn. 

One well-known example is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). It's a bacterium that lives in soil. Gardeners have sprayed Bt mixed with water on plants for decades as a natural pesticide. I use it in my garden in California. Researchers found a way to get a piece of the Bt gene to grow with corn. Those corn plants don't get attacked by the European corn borer insect (an invasive species, by the way). About five years ago, researchers showed that genes move quite naturally from bacteria to plants often. Today, we are able to feed almost 8 billion people around the world, because of the discoveries and techniques used to genetically modify plants.

By making a donation to the Dr Pepper FANraiser, you'll have the chance to win a role in a Dr Pepper commercial (in addition to helping students with their education). And be sure to check out Bill Nye's new book "Bill Nye's Great Big World of Science."