The Media and I: Agroecology

By Henry I. Miller, MS, MD — Jan 18, 2024
In this radio discussion with John Batchelor, we delve into the genetic engineering of food using molecular techniques. I share insights into the current discourse surrounding genetic modification techniques and related concepts like "sustainable intensification" and "agroecology."
Image by Michi S from Pixabay

Our conversation starts with Britain's King Charles and his past antagonism toward molecular genetic engineering. I emphasize the importance of avoiding such uninformed comments in the future, especially considering the shift towards sustainability in the 21st century.

We discuss the term "sustainable intensification," about which I am skeptical. John references Professor Jules Pretty's definition of sustainable intensification, highlighting its incorporation of principles like cultivating less land and reducing water and energy usage for increased food production – characteristics that align with the benefits of genetic engineering. However, I point out that Pretty doesn't acknowledge genetic engineering in his definition.

I note that the term intentionally excludes genetic engineering, which the most precise and predictable way to improve crop plants. Theories like sustainable intensification that neglect modern genetic modification techniques are like trying to make an omelet without eggs.

We discussed the controversy surrounding the regulation of new gene editing techniques, such as CRISPR-Cas9, and the distinction between them and traditional methods. I believe the modern approaches are more precise and predictable, posing fewer hazards than older techniques.

The conversation then shifts to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). I criticize the UN's ineptitude and antagonism towards modern technologies and highlight their reluctance to embrace sound science and essential agricultural advances. Their term "Agroecology," like sustainable intensification, excludes genetic engineering from their definition.

Genetic engineering is crucial to feeding the world, so the entrenched antagonism towards it, particularly in Europe, is vexing.


You can find the complete audio discussion here

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Henry I. Miller, MS, MD

Henry I. Miller, MS, MD, is the Glenn Swogger Distinguished Fellow at the American Council on Science and Health. His research focuses on public policy toward science, technology, and medicine, encompassing a number of areas, including pharmaceutical development, genetic engineering, models for regulatory reform, precision medicine, and the emergence of new viral diseases. Dr. Miller served for fifteen years at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a number of posts, including as the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology.

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