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The challenge is daunting. Feed 9 billion people in about 30 years with less land and less water.
From left to right, Jon Rich with AgriPro-Syngenta; Marla Barnett with Limagrain Cereal Seeds; Julie Borlaug with the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture; Sid Perry with WestBred-Monsanto; and Janet Lewis with Bayer CropScience, conducted a panel discussion.
“We need to re-engage the funding entities and those outside of agriculture to understand why their support is so important,” Borlaug said. “We are going to need a lot of technology and improvements to feed 9 billion people, especially with climate change and scarce natural resources.”
The third thing, she said, is a concern her grandfather voiced particularly toward the end of his life and which has become a much larger problem now—“the misunderstanding and misinformation that’s spread about agriculture.” She said that mainly comes from the anti-science, anti-GMO groups who don’t understand the role of biotechnology in agriculture.
Borlaug said her grandfather was known to say “fear of change is the greatest obstacle to progress.”
The ag sector needs to start addressing the public differently, she said. The messaging needs to change to help them understand why it is so important to support innovation in agriculture and technology and even the role of biotechnology.
“It is no longer enough to just have collective support of the research and private sector. We must gain the support of the general public in order to move agricultural research forward.”
Borlaug said arguments against these advancements often are mainly emotional rather than rational, and they resonate because it fuels the anti-corporate mentality.
But she asks people to recall the GMO golden rice crop in the Philippines: “Do you as biotech opponents really want to deny golden rice to those children who could so profoundly benefit? Are you willing to condemn them to blindness and death out of your own ignorance? I say out of your opposition, you are somewhat responsible for their vitamin A deficiency and blindness.”
That is not to say biotechnology will single-handedly erase world hunger, Borlaug added, “but we must understand that a multi-faceted integrated solution is needed.”