Stewart Brand, a self-described ecopragmatist and founder of “Whole Earth Catalog” recently spoke at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln sharing his message that genetic engineering is entering a “wild and woolly” time. Brand spoke as part of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Heuermann Lecture series.
He explained that biotechnology is so wild and woolly because he believes genetic engineering is critical to feeding a growing world. He even said those who oppose it are “superstitious, anti-science and, by the way, very harmful.”
Other reasons genetic engineering is so wild is because the developing world will be a leading edge of agricultural biotechnology as the world searches for ways to better feed itself. The need to feed an expanding population will give rise to “do-it-yourself” scientists experimenting in their own labs, he said.
“Young people are driving this. Things are moving very fast,” Brand said. “Amateur biotechnology is going to be a very interesting sequence of events.”
During his recent lecture, he praised the work done on golden rice, a genetically modified rice that contains beta carotene, which is a source of vitamin A. “Rice feeds half of humanity,” Brand said. In addition to golden rice, he shared that another genetically modified type of rice can “breathe under water for two weeks,” which would be valuable to countries that experience severe flooding.
He also listed many other foods that are being improved by genetic modification, including cassava, sorghum, bananas, carrots, rice and pigs.
Now known as a heretic to the environmental movement, Brand is also known for campaigning to have NASA release the first image of the earth in space in 1970. He helped shape the modern view of environmentalism. However, in 2005, he began to break away from the environmental movement when he began to embrace biotechnology as a way to help feed the world.