GMOs Are Not Agriculture's Future--Biotech Is
As a scientist who has spent his career in agricultural biotech, I’ve watched with some sympathy as the public struggles to sort out whether to embrace innovation in agriculture or continue a wariness that originated nearly 40 years ago with the introduction of genetically modified crops.
Very recently the agricultural world watched with interest as the European Union’s highest court upheld a decade-old policy that hinders innovation in farming. I have listened carefully to the concerns and understand a certain degree of trepidation about introducing new technologies to farming practices that are thousands of years old. But we are out of time to fix a changing climate and shrinking arable land. The world’s population is growing by 80 million every year, Europe is dealing with yet another “hottest summer on record” and parts of the U.S. have experienced wildfires daily for two years.
It is clear to me agriculture needs to adapt. The only question is how can we move forward in a way that does not repeat the mistakes of the GMO (genetically modified organism) era? The answer lies in newer technologies that allow us to responsibly develop crops that never integrate non-native elements into a plant. This was the catastrophic mistake of GMO. Today’s science is very different and enables us to precisely target and direct a plant’s natural gene-editing process. This approach accelerates natural breeding that has been a staple of farming for thousands of years and is already proving to be a rapid, versatile and low-cost way to improve nutrition, increase crop yields and reduce waste.
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