Biotechnology discoveries

Biotechnology discoveries

Ahead of the 2013 Borlaug Dialogue, Dr. Marc Van Montagu, Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton, and Dr. Robert Fraley, the 2013 World Food Prize laureates, were guests on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River show Monday to discuss the past, present and future of the agricultural biotechnology capabilities they pioneered.

During the hour-long show, Dr. Fraley talked about how he and his fellow 2013 World Food Prize laureates were both competing and cooperating in the 1980s in their efforts to define and develop the emerging field of biotechnology.

“All science builds on the science that comes before it. There were so many contributions and folks that made it all possible, ” Dr. Fraley said. “We were all competing a little bit and collaborating a lot. It was a special time for the field.”

The three scientists discussed the role their discoveries are playing in modern farming, noting that there has been a significant adoption rate of genetically modified crops among both small- and large-scale farms due to the positive impact the technology has on increasing crop yields and increasing efficiency.

During the interview and Q&A with radio listeners, each of the laureates reiterated the strong safety record for GM products.

“There is so much misunderstanding and so much misinformation around, the only thing we can do is try to understand the beliefs and … understand the directionality behind it, ” Dr. Van Montagu said. “It’s clear that … as we go from 2 billion (people) in 1945 to 8, 9, maybe 10 billion … we have to find some solutions. We have to make food, but we have to do it in a sustainable way.”

Dr. Chilton added, “I really don’t understand the opposition to this technology. … It’s a technology that reduces and in many cases eliminates the need for some agricultural chemicals. It reduces the impact of modern agriculture on the environment, and that can only be a good thing in my point of view.”

Dr. Fraley pointed out the thousands of safety-related studies that have been conducted by both government and private sectors.

“This technology has been in the market for over 20 years and there has not been a single incident of food safety issues associated with the technology. … These are the most thoroughly studied and safest food products in the marketplace, ” Dr. Fraley said.

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