Pamela Ronald at TED: Prejudices of rich denying poor, vulnerable benefits of biotechnology

Pamela Ronald

Pamela Ronald is at the global TED conference to talk about her work as a plant geneticist, about her quest to “study genes that make plants resistant to disease and tolerant of stress.”

Genetic improvement of plants isn’t new, she says. Ancient corn had a case so hard that it couldn’t be chewed; the ancient banana was full of large seeds; ancient brussels sprouts weren’t actually individual objects. “To create these crops, breeders used many kinds of genetic techniques,” says Ronald. “Today breeders have even more the options choose from. Some of them are extraordinarily precise.”

“A lot of people don’t mind genetic modification when it involves moving rice genes around,” says Ronald, “but when it comes to taking genes from viruses and bacteria and putting them into plants, people say ‘Yuck! Why would scientists do that?’”

Ronald’s answer: “Because sometimes it is the safest, cheapest and most effective technology to advance sustainable agriculture and enhance food security.”

In the 1950s, the papaya crop on the island of Oahu in Hawaii was threatened by a ringspot pam-ronaldvirus. “Many people thought the Hawaiian papaya was doomed,” says Ronald.

A local Hawaian plant pathologist named Dennis Gonsalves had an idea. He spliced a snippet of the DNA of the virus into the papaya genome — and it worked. It made the papaya resistant to the virus. “His pioneering work is credited with rescuing the papaya industry,” says Ronald. “Twenty years later, no other method is as effective.” 80% of all Hawaiian papaya is now engineered in this way.

Genetic engineering has been used commercially for 40 years in wines, cheeses and much more. And in that time, there hasn’t been a case of harm to human health or the environment, she points out. “Look, I’m not asking you to believe me. Science is not a belief system. My opinion does not matter.  Let’s look at the evidence. After 20 years of careful study and rigorous peer review by thousands of independent scientists, every major scientific organization in the world has concluded that the process of genetic engineering is as safe or safer as older methods of genetic modification.”

She ends: “What scares me most about the loud arguments and misinformation about plant genetics is that the poorest people, the people who most need the technology, may be denied access because of the fears and prejudices of those who have enough to eat.”

Read full, original article: How genetic engineering creates food security: Pamela Ronald speaks at TED2015

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

As Europe sees record coronavirus cases and deaths, Slovakia is testing its entire adult population. WSJ's Drew Hinshaw explains how ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend