Last week, President Barack Obama discussed food and climate change at Seeds and Chips Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan, Italy, joined by his former White House chef Sam Kass. The former president discussed his views on GMOs more extensively than he has in the past.
Kass described gene-editing as “the emerging technology with the biggest potential to transform what we eat,” noting that it’s “cheap and it’s easy.”
When asked for his views on these emerging technologies, Obama described the sensitivities that people often have around food.
“Because food is so close to us and is part of our family and is part of what we do every single day, people, I think, are more resistant to the idea of government or bureaucrats telling them what to eat, how to eat and how to grow,” he said.
Hear the conversation on food and ag innovation at 2:13:19.
“This debate around genetically modified foods is, I know, a very controversial one,” Obama said. “The approach that I took when I was President of the United States is in the same way that I would let the science determine my policies around climate change. I try to let the science determine my attitudes about food production and new technologies.”
The former president noted the importance of agricultural innovation, making it clear that, while caution and prudence are acceptable, basing our decisions on science is essential.
“The truth is, humanity has always engaged in genetic modifications. The rice we eat or the corn we eat or the wheat we eat does not look like what corn or wheat or rice looked like 1,000 years ago. And that’s because humanity continually learned from experience… and we started realizing that we could not just discover things by accident, but actaully put in place systems of discovery.”
The former president continually focused on the importance of using facts and science to make our determinations on GMOs.
“I worry a little bit that somehow, sometimes the conversation has just gotten cut off, as opposed to, ‘Let’s see what the facts are.’”
While Obama did not give us an idea of how involved he’ll be in food advocacy moving forward, one thing is for sure – biotechnology is on the main stage and will continue to play an increasingly important role in food production.