Julie Borlaug says biotech is necessary in fight against hunger
She noted some of the benefits of the application of proper science and biotechnology to agricultural crops included reducing the need for chemical inputs such as pesticides and herbicides, a smaller carbon imprint from less need for mechanized plowing and tilling, and the ability to specifically modify foods to contain more nutrients and grow in difficult environments.
“Opponents of what are termed GMOs or genetically modified organisms often use emotional and anti-corporate arguments to state their case,” she said. “But the real emotional appeal should be toward the vital and practical need for such innovation in the face of global food insecurity and the social instability this can cause.
“Most people in developed countries seem to have the perspective that food is somehow grown in the grocery store and is plentiful because they’ve never seen a shortage in their lifetime. They somehow feel, in spite of extensive research showing there is no nutritional difference between genetically modified foods and ‘organics,’ that non-modified foods are the only ones people should eat.”
She added that her grandfather was a scientist, but like many scientists he had “some difficulty in explaining why science is important.”
“But his innovation of developing a dwarf wheat triggered the Green Revolution — a true agricultural quantum leap that saved more than a billion lives,” she said.
She noted that March 25 of this year would have marked her grandfather’s 100th birthday, and that Dr. Norman Borlaug passed away in 2009 at age 95 after spending most of his life searching for ways to address world hunger.
“It’s ironic to me that some people would like to somehow go back a hundred years, to the time when my grandfather was born, in terms of agriculture and agricultural advancement,” she said. “But my granddad was not only a scientist and humanitarian, he was also a realist who understood that agriculture must always keep moving forward, not backward. He knew that science could and should be used to meet the challenges of farmers and others involved in agriculture throughout the world.”
She noted the recent destruction of a field of genetically engineered golden rice by protesters in the Philippines as an example of misdirected social conscience.
“This rice was to provide a new source of vitamin A, an essential nutrient whose absence causes blindness in a quarter-million to a half-million children, as well as about 2 million deaths, in Africa and Asia each year. It’s hard to believe anyone would want to deny this important food source to those who would so profoundly benefit from it.”