Friday, November 18, 2016

More on GMO's.


I've discussed this before.  The opponents of GMO's have legitimate problems with it.  But in thirty years there are going to be 8 billion people to feed.  The last time we were threatened by such a catastrophe, in the 1970's, there was a "green revolution" and science brought us back from the brink.

Now the looming brink dwarfs the one in the 1970's.  But science again is there, provided that they are going to be allowed to work with GMO's.  To ban this work will be tragic.

But now there is incredible hope with GMO research. 
A decade ago, agricultural scientists at the University of Illinois suggested a bold approach to improve the food supply: tinker with photosynthesis, the chemical reaction powering nearly all life on Earth. 
The idea was greeted skeptically in scientific circles and ignored by funding agencies. But one outfit with deep pockets, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, eventually paid attention, hoping the research might help alleviate global poverty. 
Now, after several years of work funded by the foundation, the scientists are reporting a remarkable result. 
Using genetic engineering techniques to alter photosynthesis, they increased the productivity of a test plant — tobacco — by as much as 20 percent, they said Thursday in a study published by the journal Science. That is a huge number, given that plant breeders struggle to eke out gains of 1 or 2 percent with more conventional approaches.
The scientists have no interest in increasing the production of tobacco; their plan is to try the same alterations in food crops, and one of the leaders of the work believes production gains of 50 percent or more may ultimately be achievable. If that prediction is borne out in further research — it could take a decade, if not longer, to know for sure — the result might be nothing less than a transformation of global agriculture. 
The findings could also intensify the political struggle over genetic engineering of the food supply. Some groups oppose it, arguing that researchers are playing God by moving genes from one species to another. That argument has gained some traction with the public, in part because the benefits of gene-altered crops have so far been modest at best.
But gains of 40 or 50 percent in food production would be an entirely different matter, potentially offering enormous benefits for the world’s poorest people, many of them farmers working small plots of land in the developing world.
This work is incredibly important, and it must be allowed to continue.  If the anti-GMO people succeed in crushing this science, they will share responsiblity for millions, indeed hundreds of millions of people dying of starvation over the next 30 or so years.