The European Union has been a little slow in its adoption of genetically modified technology in agriculture. Unfortunately, despite scientific consensus that GMOs are just as safe as their non-GMO counterparts, EU member states do not allow for cultivation of these crops. While they allow for importation and sale, there is still a deep distrust of the technology. Former President Barack Obama acknowledged those concerns but encouraged people to follow the science when he delivered the keynote address at the Seeds&Chips Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan, Italy.
According to Politico, Obama said in an interview while at the summit:
This debate around genetically modified foods is, I know, a very controversial one. The approach I took when I was president of the United States was that in the same way I would let the science determine my policies around climate change, I try to let the science determine my attitude about food production and new technologies.
He went on to say that while he recognizes some people want to take it slow and be cautious, humanity has always engaged in genetic modifications and we can learn from our human experience. During his keynote address he stated: “It’s here. It’s going to come anyway, so we might as well make sure we have a smart discussion about how we proceed and how we think about it.”
Seeds&Chips claims to be one of the leading Food Innovation events in the world. Food Innovation is described as: “the whole food chain, from farm to fork: the increasing world population and protein consumption, climate change, scarcity of available resources, socio-demographic changes, protection of health and irreversible and overt changes in the processes of choice and purchase.” The summit focuses on the potential yet to be discovered in agriculture and food.
Given the European Union’s backwards and conflicting stance on genetically modified crops, I’m glad to see that President Obama used the platform as an opportunity to encourage people to look at the science, consider how we got here, and accept that is going to be used. His encouragement was a balanced approach: instead of hindering scientific progress in agriculture, we should have discussions about biotechnology’s proper use and how it is implemented. In other words, stop trying to put the genie back in the bottle and figure out when we want to employ those wishes.