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?
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.
Jon Entine is the executive director of the Genes and Science. 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.