An agricultural scientist told the Times recently that the organic food movement should change its hostility to GM crops and recognize its contribution to sustainable agriculture.
Professor Gordon Conway of Imperial College London believes that although farmers who grow organic crops are the most stubborn opponents of genetic engineering, transgenic crops should be considered legal. Conway said that organic farmers are not allowed to use genetically modified crops, not only because they are too rigid in refusing to use synthetic methods for farming; And because of misunderstanding, it is believed that natural methods are safer and more environmentally friendly than artificial methods.
Farmers should make comprehensive use of organic methods and transgenic technology to maximize yield and reduce damage to the ecosystem. Conway acknowledged that supporters of the organic movement would not accept this view, but he believed that compared with the crops planted today, genetic engineering could create better organic crops and obtain more environmental benefits.
Conway was once the chief scientific adviser of the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom. He said: "There is a possibility to combine genetic technology and organic methods, which may be heresy, but if we accept this idea, we will gain real benefits."
The global population will reach 9 billion in 2050. In order to ensure food safety and reduce environmental damage, scientists have gradually increased pressure to call for the expansion of the use of genetically modified crops. John Beddington, the chief scientific adviser of the British government, said recently that the world cannot ignore the potential of genetic engineering in improving agriculture.
However, GM technology was opposed by such lobby groups as the British Soil Association, who believed that GM crops were not only unnatural but also risky.
Kangwei said that the overuse of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides has caused environmental damage. Traditional agriculture needs to learn a lot from organic agriculture. The goal of transgenic crops and organic movement is the same, both aiming at developing sustainable agriculture; The organic movement believes that natural methods are the best, but genetic engineering does not agree with this misleading view. Kang Wei said: "Many people in the world believe that nature is always benign, and that artificial work is always non benign, which is nonsense. In fact, nature is also full of toxic things. People adhere to rigid rules, but also reinforced by some misunderstandings."
Although the process of creating transgenic crops is unnatural, the conventional breeding methods of non transgenic varieties are also unnatural. The genes treated by both methods originate from nature, but genetic engineering can create crops with significant advantages.
Conway believes that rigid organic certification regulations block the use of technology and undermine the sustainable development of agriculture. For example, herbicide tolerant transgenic crops can promote the development of "no tillage" agriculture and reduce carbon emissions. He said: "We can create better organic crops through genetic engineering. At present, I don't think many people will agree with this, but they will accept it eventually."
Farmers should choose the most sustainable technology, regardless of its source. Conway believes that: "If we want to achieve a sustainable world, we should adopt appropriate technologies and not be confined to rigid preconceived notions. We will usher in a mixed world, in which we choose a technology only because it is appropriate, regardless of its source. I think the world in 2050 will be like this: it will not be full of high-tech, but it cannot be a world that completely returns to nature. ”