New York Times dispels notion that genetic modification is unnatural
The New York Times Freakonomics blog put to rest the assertion that GMOs are “unnatural” in a recent post titled “GMOs and Mother Nature? Closer Than You Think.” The author, James McWilliams, cites a discovery by Swedish scientists that cross-species gene transfer happens even without human intervention in nature, and has been occurring for 700,000 years. This supports the scientific position that genetic modification is just a continuation of the trait selection, and underscores the importance of not excluding any means of food production by incorrectly deeming it “unnatural.” Mr. McWilliams writes, “To divide the precious manifestation of that fight - our food supply - into “real” and “frankenfood” insults not only those who grow and produce our food, but nature itself.” Read more.
Scientists recognize need for GM to feed growing population
According to a Reuters article, the world’s population is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050, and many scientists agree that it will take a variety of farming approaches to feed this increased population, including the application of genetically modified crops. Sir Gordon Conway, an agricultural ecologist and former President of the Royal Geographical Society, says “the organic movement has to evolve, to recognize the enormity of the challenge we’ve got, and look more seriously at sound, sustainable ecological approaches which make minimal use of inorganic fertilizers, industrial pesticides and GM.” Read more.
Golden rice’s golden opportunity
Golden rice could convince skeptics of the technology’s benefits, according to a recent Atlantic article. Golden rice is rice that has been genetically engineered to produce beta-carotene, which the body processes into vitamin A, and which can stave off blindness in children in developing nations. The rice, which was produced through a public-private partnership and will likely become available in the next year or two, has the potential to improve the health of millions and provides a concrete example for consumers of the benefits of genetic modification. Read more.
On March 4, 2010 CBI attended The Atlantic Food Summit, an event featuring food and agriculture experts in Washington, DC. The event was held at the Newseum and had over 300 attendees, representing all voices on the food chain, from farmers to processors, to consumers to regulators. The first panel discussion was titled “Feeding the World” and featured Sen. Tom Daschle, Dr. Hafez Ghanem, Assistant Director-General of the UNFAO and Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA. The panel was moderated by James Gibney, Deputy Managing Editor of The Atlantic.
Senator Tom Daschle spoke about the need for additional R&D towards agriclutural biotechnology at The Atlantic Food Summit
While the panelists had different viewpoints regarding the best ways to feed a growing world, they all agreed upon a few principles, including the need to do something to combat hunger and help feed the one billion people who are undernourished or malnourished today. Sen. Daschle believes global hunger can be eradicated by focusing our development efforts on innovation, competition, collaboration and the empowerment of farmers. He sees development as key to the future of agriculture, specifically technological development. Sen. Daschle believes that “we need to embrace science-based solutions aggressively” in order to find ways to feed a growing population.
Dr. Ghanem is also troubled by the number of people worldwide who go hungry every day, and believes that our current food system is not sustainable. With regard to crop biotechnology, he believes that the science has been used successfully in some developing countries so it does not make sense to exclude options that can help feed the world. Conversely, Josh Viertel did not agree that seeds developed by private industry for profit that produce higher yields should be shared with developing farmers.
It was a robust discussion and touched on many of the most debated issues in food and agriculture, including biotech crops, farm subsidies, world hunger and obesity. The panelists all agreed that it was promising to see so many people and governments focusing on ways to eradicate hunger and feed a growing population.