“As a plant scientist, neither I nor my fellow 2013 World Food Prize laureates, Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton and Dr. Robert T. Fraley, anticipated the resistance to genetic modification and biotechnology.” – Dr. Mac Van Montagu, founder and chairman of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium.
Dr. Marc Van Montagu, winner of the 2013 World Prize, recently wrote a commendable op-ed arguing how a lack of acceptance surrounding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) can only be due to “irrational fear” and not sound science. This piece is worth highlighting not only because Dr. Montagu is a reputable scientist, but also because he explains his confusion around a lack of acceptance of technology that has been proven safe and essential for feeding a growing population.
Recently published in The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Montagu’s op-ed titled, “The Irrational Fear of GM Food,” argues that
“Society, the economy and the environment have benefited enormously from GM crops. India has flipped from cotton importer to exporter because of insect-resistant cotton. Herbicide-tolerant GM crops have stimulated no-tillage farming, reducing soil erosion and greenhouse gas emissions. Insect-resistant GM crops have cut insecticide sprayings by more than 25%—and as much as sevenfold in some parts of India. In developing countries, GM crops have helped ensure food security and bolster incomes for farmers, allowing parents to focus more resources on other priorities, such as educating their children.”
Dr. Monatgu explains that these achievements are “only the beginning” and can help answer “the question of how to nourish two billion more people in a changing climate.”
He continues to successfully prove why advanced agriculture technology needs to be embraced and not suppressed, “these crops will continue to reduce hunger by bringing more bountiful and nutritious harvests. They will also help the environment by mitigating the impact of agriculture by conserving our precious, finite supply of fresh water…”
Lastly, Dr. Monatagu laudably explicates why a lack of acceptance surrounding GMO science is based on an “irrational fear,”
“Resistance to biotechnology seems all the more unbelievable considering that much of it comes from the same thoughtful people who tend to dismiss climate-change skeptics as ‘anti-science.’ It seems to me that much of the resistance to GM foods isn’t based on science, but may be ideological and political, based on fears of ‘corporate profiteering’ and “Western colonialism.
“As a plant scientist, neither I nor my fellow 2013 World Food Prize laureates, Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton and Dr. Robert T. Fraley, anticipated the resistance to genetic modification and biotechnology. After all, nearly everything humans have eaten though the millennia has been genetically altered by human intervention. Mankind has been breeding crops—and thereby genetically altering them—since the dawn of agriculture. Today’s techniques for modifying plants are simply new, high-precision methods for doing the same.”
Dr. Van Montagu is founder and chairman of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium. He is the co-recipient of the 2013 World Food Prize, along with Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta Biotechnology and Dr. Robert T. Fraley of Monsanto.