Pesticides and food: It’s not a black and white issue

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FIRST ARTICLE: Has pesticide use decreased over the last 40 years?

Podcast: Jon Entine, Kevin Folta, Perry Hackett on how gene editing could dampen the partisan GMO divide

We all know agriculture faces a massive challenge in the coming decades, which is usually summarized like this: The world’s population is exploding. By 2050, we have to dramatically increase the number of calories we produce today in order to feed 10 billion people—without destroying the environment in the process. Because of its ability to cut pesticide use and boost crop yields, biotechnology has an important role to play if we are to achieve this goal. As a 2014 study noted:

On average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37% [and] increased crop yields by 22% ….

But before the agricultural community can drastically boost food production, it must earn the trust of many consumers, and see a softening of the opposition by old-guard environmentalists and organic food advocates. These groups remain wary of the multinational corporations that developed transgenic (GMO) crops beginning in the 1990s and still wield much influence over agricultural biotechnology today. So how do you win over people who view crop biotechnology and corporate influence as threats?

Related article:  Chinese scientists aren’t keeping tabs on experimental gene therapy patients, report says

One answer may be gene editing, a burgeoning technology that could circumvent the most common objections to utilizing biotechnology on the farm. On this episode of the Innovation Forum (a British organization focusing on promoting sustainability) podcast, GLP executive director Jon Entine, University of Florida horticulturalist Kevin Folta and Recombinetics co-founder Perry Hackett join host Toby Webb to discuss how gene editing might help bring farmers, consumers, activists and industry together in pursuit of sustainable food production.

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Jon Entine is the executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project. Twitter: @JonEntine. Kevin Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Twitter: @KevinFolta. Perry Hackett is the co-founder of the gene-editing company Recombinetics @recombinetics.

This podcast was originally released in June by the Innovation Forum as How and why genome editing can transform agriculture and has been republished here with permission.

2 thoughts on “Podcast: Jon Entine, Kevin Folta, Perry Hackett on how gene editing could dampen the partisan GMO divide”

  1. Not only has pesticide use been reduced, if we look at the pesticides that have been replaced we would find that they had a longer residual life, more toxic to the user and less friendly to the environment.

  2. I have been a farmer most of my life and have not seen any increase in yields form genetically modified crops. The ones that are supposed to be drought resistant yield poorer than conventional crops during a drought. I would like to know where you are cherry picking your information from. If you want to know what makes a crop drought resistant try adding micro-biology to the soil. When there is a living microbiome crops can handle dry conditions with ease. This is why the wild surrounding vegetation does not die during a drought. As far as pesticide reduction, that may be true but there is a substantial increase in the use of glyphosate which is adding to the poor gut health of the western world. If you really want to feed the world stop mono-cropping, reduce the size of the farm to a few acres and grow organically. Not only can you feed the world, the food will be loaded with minerals which are now lacking from use of conventional fertilizer killing the microbiology in the soil. This will substantially reduce health care cost to boot.

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