On Wednesday we hosted a panel about public perceptions and the impact misperceptions can have on the adoption of ag biotechnology. In a crowded conference room, Sally Squires moderated a lively discussion about some of the common misperceptions of ag biotechnology and how scientists, journalists and third party hunger advocates can help correct those misperceptions for the benefit of all.
Michael Specter, panelist, author of Denialism and staff writer for The New Yorker, challenged U.S. audiences to think beyond what he called “food elitism.” He noted that it’s easy for those of us living in countries with relative food abundance to make decisions that affect hungry developing nations under the guise of protecting their best interest. Dr. Margaret Zeigler, panelist and Deputy Director of the Congressional Hunger Center, echoed this sentiment calling it a form of “Neo-Colonialism,” whose unintended affects can leave poor nations starving. Dr. Bruce Chassy, another panelist and food scientist expert, talked about the “education gap” and how the divide between fact and feelings can have a significant impact on the policies and regulations that are enacted. He believes we need better education so the public and policymakers can make informed, science-based decisions on matters related to the use of these technologies.
Maywa Montenegro, science editor at Seed Magazine, articulated the need to promote ag biotechnology as one of many tools that can help feed the world and shared that we will need a variety of production techniques and methods, including organic farming , in order to meet the world’s food needs, sustainably. Lastly, Ken Kamiya shared some of his personal stories about being a papaya farmer in Hawaii. A staple crop in Hawaii, the papaya was being ravished by disease and the industry was in decline before disease-resistant, GM papayas were developed. He witnessed firsthand the benefits of ag biotechnology in helping to save the papaya industry and his farming business. A second-generation farmer, Ken knows, intimately, the benefits in terms of economics, labor efficiencies and environmental sustainability of using crop biotechnology.
There was a lot more to the discussion but you’ll have to come back and visit the CBI blog to learn more! We also captured video interviews with a number of scientists and ag biotech advocates who shared their insights on the next frontier in ag biotech and their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities coming in the next 5-10 years. We spoke to Jose Perez-Riera, Secretary of Economic Development of Puerto Rico, about the growing biotech sector in Puerto Rico. We also got a chance to speak to Dr. Pamela Ronald, author of Tomorrow’s Table and plant geneticist from Univ. of California-Davis, and captured some of her insights about what the next frontier will be in ag biotech research. Also, be sure to visit our Facebook page and YouTube channel in the coming weeks to see some of these video clips and interviews with leading experts!