The Man who saved a billion lives

posted in: Syndicated | 11

Why Genetically Modified food is necessary to feed the planet

by Jonathan Gray for The Toronto Globalist
Saving the species. It’s the noblest goal any human can aspire to, and it is associated with figures who are the paragon of humanity. I do not wish to speak about ‘saving souls’ in a religious sense. Abraham Lincoln literally saved tens of thousands of men and women who would otherwise be subject to abject slavery. Nelson Mandela literally saved millions from apartheid. In terms of occurrences outside one’s lifetime, there are some individuals whose contributions to medical science have saved numbers of an unimaginable order of magnitude –  Jonas Salk discovered a method of defeating polio; Edward Jenner brought about the beginning of the end for smallpox. We have our heroes, our saviors, the ones who dedicated themselves to helping, above all else.

We are 6.6 billion people now. We can only feed 4 billion. I don’t see 2 billion volunteers to disappear. -Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug isn’t a household name by far. Yet, in his lifetime, he was credited to saving over a billion people, in a very literal sense. For this, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, a frank defeat of the doomsaying Malthusians and ‘Population Bomb’ adherents. Thomas Malthus, a British economist, had predicted in 1798 that exponential population growth would outstrip global food output, which was limited by the efficiency of the land. Now deceased, Norman Borlaug’s legacy lives on in the technology he tirelessly distributed across the globe. This is the legacy of agricultural technology, specifically of genetically modified organisms. Yet, it is amongst the most maligned scientific achievements of the past decades; the ‘Franken-Foods’ have been spurned in favor of a return to the ‘natural’ processes of the ‘organic’ food movement.

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David Tribe is an applied geneticist, teaching graduate/undergrad courses in food science, food safety, biotechnology and microbiology at the University of Melbourne.