Organically Grown and Genetically Engineered: The Food of the Future

Over at The Long Now blog they have announced that the talk tonight by Pam Ronald and Raoul Adamchak will be tweeted.  I think it will be the first talk I will hear in that manner….  But I have been eager to see Pam talk about her work in more detail.  I have followed the flood-tolerant rice story and often use it as an example of the kind of project we’ll need to see more of as we face increasing climate instability.

I expect the talk will largely mirror the content of Pam and Raoul’s book Tomorrow’s Table, which I thought was nicely balanced and explained many of the complexities of the discussions around genetic engineering of plants and the drama surrounding their cultivation.  I hope it will also help Michael Pollan to understand the state of the work in this area.  In Pollan’s The Long Now talk I watched recently he seemed unaware of some of this work.  Here’s what he said (transcription is mine and any errors therein; they have the talk in PDF form with the video but they don’t cover the questions):

“Well, I can imagine genetically modified crops that would contribute to the kind of sustainable agriculture that I’m describing. We don’t have them now. And by-and-large they are not being worked on. Pam Ronald may tell you something else when she comes here.”

Pollan also said something that I thought was very interesting that may actually indicate more alignment with Pam and Raoul than I would have expected:

“Well, when I think about the future I imagine a time where there will not be 1 agriculture system. Where there will be more than one.  On a 50 year horizon I don’t see industrial agriculture vanishing.  And I’m not even so sure that would be a good thing, for it to vanish. I think, you know, coming up with one solution is another form of monoculture thinking.  And that we would make a mistake to throw all our eggs in one basket, whether it was pastured beef or organic agriculture or any number of different things.  We need a resilient system, which is to say with many many different ways of doing the same thing.”

I see a lot of “monoculture thinking” on this topic and it will be nice to see some biodiversity :)  They tell me the audio will be available in a week and a video within a month.