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Julie Borlaug: Biotech is an important tool in the integrated war against world hunger

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Would critics of biotechnology really want to bar life-changing and lifesaving agricultural innovations from those who need them the most? Julie Borlaug doesn’t think so.

Normand and julie borlaugThe associate director of external relations at the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University – and granddaughter of Dr. Norman Borlaug – made a compelling and personal case for biotechnology and its role in fighting world hunger in this Des Moines (Iowa) Register opinion article.

Borlaug maintains that biotechnology advocates, including her grandfather, “were unfortunately a lot better at doing science than communicating about it.” She advocates streamlining of the discussion around biotech to focus on the technology and societal need, separating that from more emotional reactions that can stem from political views or anti-corporate sentiment.

“Whatever the source of their opposition to biotechnology, we need to ask critics if they really want to bar spectacular, life-changing and lifesaving innovations because of it,” Borlaug said.

Borlaug pointed to her personal experience working with farmers in sub-Saharan Africa as she highlighted the urgent need to develop new tools and techniques to safely feed a growing population.

“The people in the fields are usually women — spending hour after precious hour pulling weeds or watching the crops get destroyed by insects or viruses, bacteria, or fungi,” she said.  “Once one sees the challenges these farmers face, as I have, one wants to ensure their access to whatever innovations science can possibly provide to overcome their challenges.”

And while biotechnology alone won’t end world hunger, Borlaug concludes that farmers will continue to need many tools, and “biotechnology is one of them.”

Photograph courtesy of the Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M University.

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