Pope Francis issues cautious statements about GMOs

(Editor’s note: Introduction by Karl Haro von Mogel) On Thursday the 18th of June, the Vatican published an encyclical written by Pope Francis – an open letter addressed to “every living person on this planet.” The bulk of this encyclical focused on addressing climate change and other detrimental impacts that humans are having on the environment. Subtitled On Care for Our Common Home, it called for a revolution in how we think and act about climate change, which to this day remains a politically divided issue despite the overwhelming scientific consensus. There was a passage that discussed genetically engineered crops, which caught the attention when a draft version of the encyclical was apparently leaked on Monday. Two years ago, the creator of Golden Rice, Ingo Potrykus, had asked Pope Francis to bless a small sample of the genetically engineered and pro-vitamin A-producing staple crop, which he hopes will help cure


Thoughts About Norm Borlaug for his 100th Birthday

Norman Borlaug would have been 100 years old last week.  He has been called “The Man Who Fed The World,” and “The Father of The Green Revolution.”  Norm Borlaug was the first plant pathologist to be awarded a Nobel Prize (1970) – for contributions to world peace. For all of use who are fellow plant pathologists, his work has been particularly inspiring. It is a good time to look back at how the challenge of feeding the world population was met during Borlaug’s career, because we have a similar challenge ahead of us.


Counting The Cost of the Anti-GMO Movement

Last week, environmentalist Mark Lynas presented an articulate and painfully honest apology for his significant role in starting the anti-GMO movement in the 1990s.  He said that it was the most successful campaign in which he has ever been involved, but after finally looking into the science, he now deeply regrets what he and others accomplished.  While it is gratifying to have a figure like Lynas make such a turn-about, it does nothing to mitigate the damage of which this anti-science movement has perpetrated on humanity and the environment.  Ideally, such a dramatic reversal will induce others in the movement to rethink their positions. but this sort of openness to letting the science speak into bias is likely to be rare. Lynas is right that anti-GMO campaigners have been extremely successful at blocking, delaying, or destroying potential crop improvements via biotechnology.  Lynas had a lot of ground to cover in his speech, so


Interviews: Getting the facts on Proposition 37

Three days ago, I announced that I would be interviewing the proponents and opponents of California Proposition 37, which if passed would require labels on foods made from genetically engineered crops. There has been a lot of debate about this issue, for as long as genetically engineered crops have been around. I participated in a chat last week that Mercury News put on, which had both Stacy Malkan and Kathy Fairbanks answering questions and debating each other, and it was pretty hectic, disjointed, and somewhat uncivil. It didn’t answer any of the questions that I had about the proposition – so I was inspired to contact the two campaigns to do an interview for the Biofortified Blog. Stacy Malkan agreed to represent the Yes on 37 campaign, and Kathy Fairbanks agreed to represent the No on 37 campaign. I’m happy to say that the interviews, recorded on Monday and Tuesday,

Interview with Dr. Gia Aradottir

In England, there is an important experiment underway. A research group at the Rothamsted Research station in Harpenden, is testing a variety of wheat that has been genetically engineered to scare away aphid pests. If successful, the experiment could demonstrate the effectiveness of a novel, environmentally-friendly way to manage pests. However, a protest group is threatening the ability of the researchers to continue their project, and there have been a lot of claims made about the research. To help shed some light on this experiment, I interviewed Dr. Gia Aradottir, a biologist who is involved in the project. KJHvM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to work at Rothamsted and on this project? What is your role in the project? GA: I’m the newest member of the GM wheat team, I joined the E-β-farnesene project a year and a half ago. I did my