“The survival of our species has always depended on advances in agriculture.” So begins the narration for Food Evolution, a new documentary about genetically modified foods and the high-stakes global controversy over their use.
Astrophysicist and popular science educator Neil deGrasse Tyson provides the soothing, even-handed voice that takes viewers from a plant genetics lab in the United States to a banana farm in Uganda, showing viewers how genetic modification works and the very real problems around the world it is helping to solve.
At CEI, we have a long history of standing up for the unfairly maligned techniques of recombinant DNA engineering and the scientists who practice it. Our former senior fellow and executive director Gregory Conko wrote widely and lectured around the world about the value of modern plant science, including in his 2004 book, with Dr. Henry I. Miller, The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution. That book, a recipient of positive reviews in the New York Times and Financial Times, also received an endorsement from one of the most impressive scientists of the 20th Century, Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug. It was our honor to give Norm the inaugural Prometheus Award for Human Achievement in 2004. Greg recounted that notable event on Norm’s 93rd birthday in 2007.
The film was brought to my attention by plant geneticist and Tuskegee University professor Dr. C.S. Prakash. Prof. Prakash has for many years been a teacher and researcher, speciailizing in the study of the peanut, much like his distinguished academic ancestor George Washington Carver. But he has also been a policy advocate, in part through the AgBioWorld Foundation, which provides science-based information on agricultural biotechnology issues to stakeholders across the world.
Genetic modification of food crops is a valuable scientific process that has already helped feed countless millions of people around the world and provided breathtaking humanitarian benefits. We need more informed discussion of the kind spurred by the film Food Evolution and more hard work from smart scientists like Prakash (and Borlaug) to keep those benefits flowing.