Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and father of the Green Revolution Dr. Norman Borlaug, recently spoke on the importance of agricultural biotechnology. Presenting on February 27 at the 9th Annual Ag Issues Forum in San Antonio, Borlaug talked to attendees about the misconceptions around the topic of GMOs and the term organic. The forum, presented by Bayer CropScience, was held in advance of the annual Commodity Classic, which is touted as the “nation’s largest farmer-led and farmer-focused convention and trade show.”
Borlaug’s keynote speech was presented to 165 U.S. and foreign newspaper, television, radio and Internet journalists and reported on by several publications including the Ag Professional, Truth About Trade and Technology, and CNBC San Antonio.
In her address, Borlaug, who is associate director for external relations at the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, part of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University System, said her grandfather was a strong proponent of science and biotechnology as “weapons in the fight against world hunger.” She urged forum attendees to help “educate and inform the public” about the need for continued scientific and biotechnological advances in agriculture to feed a growing world population.
“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.”
Borlaug also emphasized that in order to pick up the slack, we need to emotionally connect with those who may have misconceived perceptions on the safety of our food.
“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.”
Borlaug noted that the world population, currently estimated at 7.2 billion, is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050.
“Multiple, integrated solutions are needed,” Borlaug said. “Farmers in underdeveloped countries need drought-resistant seeds, fresh water from improved irrigation, enhanced post-harvest storage and better roads for getting their crop to market. Biotechnology is just one of the tools the world needs to ensure adequate food security for this generation and the next.”
Borlaug called for better communication strategies from scientists, journalists and others either directly involved in or communicating about Ag Biotech. She encouraged communicators to find more practical and uncomplicated terms and “jargon” to describe its benefits and make a better case for the necessity of agricultural advancements.