The Future: Feeding the Masses

Pamela Ronald: is a UC Davis researcher who studies the genes that make plants more resistant to disease and stress. In an eye-opening talk, she describes her decade-long quest to isolate a gene that allows rice to survive prolonged flooding. She shows how the genetic improvement of seeds saved the Hawaiian papaya crop in the 1990s and makes the case that modern genetics is sometimes the most effective method to advance sustainable agriculture and food security for our planet’s growing population without further harm to the environment.

Her book Tomorrow’s Table (co-authored with organic farmer Raoul Adamchak) argues that a judicious blend of genetic engineering and organic farming is key to helping feed the world’s growing population in an ecologically balanced manner.

The question to ask about a new crop, she says, is not, Is it GM?
but, Can it help food security in less developed nations?
-Fast Company

Questions for Discussion

• What exactly are genetically modified foods?

• What could be some of the unintended consequences of these products?

• Do the stated benefits of GM foods outweigh the potential risks to human health?

• Should labeling be required on all GM foods?

Please use the comments section below to continue the discussion with your fellow students and instructor after class – or to share questions and relevant information you came across later in the week.

3 Comments on “The Future: Feeding the Masses

  1. Thanks, Matt, for leading an informative discussion today on GMO’s; it encouraged me to come home to read more. Here’s one thing I had never thought of. I thought just DNA of one corn to another corn, of one tomato to another tomoto, etc. . Never thought of a DNA from a flounder to a tomato. So, the plot thickens. Read on. Sorry, no URL here.

    “Through genetic engineering, scientists can impart desired genetic characteristics by splicing genetic segments of one species into the genes of another. This could never occur naturally. Consider one example: Certain genes from a flounder—a fish—have been inserted into tomatoes in order to give them a longer shelf life. “

  2. Oh, and there seemed some confusion that ” the pesticide produced by a GMO” meant the same thing as topical spray. Ain’t so.

  3. Oh, we didn’t get around to possible carcinogenic qualities in “Round-up Ready.” That’s all, folks!

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