By Dr. Robert Fraley
Chief Technology Officer
The pace of innovation has accelerated over the past 30 years — virtually every aspect of how we work, play and live has dramatically changed with new advances. And I think we would all agree that at least most of these advances have changed our lives for the better.
For those who may not have been around 30 years ago, a bit of perspective: In 1980, we were just starting to recover from a major energy crisis. AIDS was just emerging as a major health issue. The cordless phone allowed you to walk all the way across your living room while you were talking with someone — as long as you didn’t mind your neighbors listening in.
We can take stock of our progress on all of these fronts today. Hybrid cars are one example of the strides we’ve made in energy efficiency. We haven’t cured AIDS, but we’ve made tremendous advances and saved many lives. We’ve moved from cordless phones to instantaneous, global communication of vast volumes of information.
Each of these areas of human progress is familiar to most of us. But another wave of innovation has dramatically improved our lives over this period, even though most of us haven’t been fully aware of it.
We’re enjoying more good food.
In the U.S. and other developed nations, we’re fortunate to have more varieties of fresh produce available year-round, and many more choices on the shelves than what we had in 1980, all at affordable prices. I, for one, love this variety, and the opportunity to cook with a wide range of ingredients throughout the year.
For those in developing countries, the increased bounty that innovation enables can mean the difference between survival and starvation. Hunger continues to be a societal challenge, but we’re making progress. The global population has grown from 4.4 billion to 7.1 billion since 1980, and hunger has actually declined during this period.
In 1980, I was just a few years into my career, working with a small team to advance our understanding of molecular biology. We embarked on our journey to be the very first to genetically modify a plant cell to help increase farmers’ yields and feed a growing population.
While I’m honored and humbled to receive the World Food Prize, I also see it as a tremendous opportunity to open broader discussions about innovation and food. It’s a topic that hasn’t received the attention it deserved until recent years. And, unfortunately, the discussion has been fueled by some misunderstanding and misinformation as it has grown.
We at Monsanto hope to use this blog as one opportunity to shed more light on innovation and food — what it is, why it’s safe, and why it is critically important to our future. I’ll be joined in this space by several of Monsanto’s best and brightest scientists, breeders and information technology experts.
We’ll focus on sharing and explaining some of the key innovations that help us not only to feed a growing population, but to enjoy a wide variety of safe and nutritious food at affordable prices, year-round. We’ll get started by sharing news and perspectives from the World Food Prize gathering in Des Moines, Iowa. From there, we’ll offer regular updates and seek to answer your questions.
I’m looking forward to building this resource over time, and to expanding the conversation around innovation and food. It truly is one of the most important discussions we can have, both today and in the decades to come.