So where exactly does our food come from? And why should we care?

(Part of the “Don’t Fear Science in Your Food” Series)

In 1850, 90 percent of the global population was involved in farming. In 2020, only 1-2 percent will be. How did this dramatic shift happen, and what are the implications on the food industry as a whole?

For one, the global population has increased exponentially over the course of 200 years, forcing farmers to adopt new technologies—such as motorized equipment and labor—that could feed the growing demand. In 1940, one farmer could supply food for 19 people. Now, in 2019, one farmer can supply food for 155 people.

While this shift allowed the majority of the population to pursue lives outside of the farm, it also had an unintended consequence: the majority of the population doesn’t really know where their food comes from. A massive disconnect exists between the food on a person’s plate and their understanding of how it got there. And as with anything that’s shrouded in unknowns and mysteries, fear and suspicion often fill in the knowledge gaps.

This disconnect has led to a prevailing distrust of the food industry, especially when it comes to technology in our food. But this distrust highlights why it’s so important to fully understand where your food comes from, not only from a safety perspective, but also from an awareness perspective. Past technologies like motorized equipment and labor have allowed farmers to feed more people while stewarding their patch of dirt. As the population continues to expand, land becomes scarcer and plants become more susceptible to disease, we will need to rely on additional new technologies and innovations to meet our growing needs. Certain gene editing approaches are able to make crops mores sustainable, disease-resistant and heartier—all while leaving plants’ DNA essentially untouched—yet they face negative public perception. But in order to feed the projected 11 billion people who will be on our planet by 2050, we’re going to have to change that.

If we have a better understanding of our foods’ origins, as well as the technologies that can help improve them, it would help remove some of the fear and suspicion from our plates.

Why is science ‘okay’ for our climate, but not for our food?

(Part of the “Don’t Fear Science in Your Food” Series)

Between a growing population, shifting climate and dwindling resources, it’s no secret that our planet is in the midst of multiple environmental crises. And people across the globe are responding to these looming concerns, embracing the fact that we must “trust the science” and change the destructive, unsustainable habits our society has grown into.

But only to a certain extent.

While the public has been accepting of certain technologies that make our daily practices more environmentally friendly—such as for climate change—the public hasn’t been very accepting of technology that makes our food more environmentally friendly. In the US, based on a 2014 study by the USDA, food production accounts for about 2% of our energy use, and it’s one of the largest consumers of energy across the globe. Using science to develop food that’s heartier, more nutritious, more sustainable and disease-resistant is a reality we will all have to face—and it’s really not as scary as you may think.

There’s a lot of science in our food already. Take selective breeding, for example: a practice that farmers have been honing for millennia. By selecting and breeding the plant species with the most desirable traits—such as size or flavor—agriculture has changed dramatically over the course of history. Corn is barely recognizable from what it once was, and vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower all belong to the same plant species, Brassica oleracea.

With gene editing technologies, including CRISPR approaches and our gene repair oligonucleotide (GRON), there are a number of solutions that add diversity to provide starting points for the selective breeding process that farmers and breeders use, speeding it up from hundreds or thousands of years to less than a decade. By selecting the traits that are more desirable, these approaches can help make agriculture more sustainable for our planet’s growing population.

We must “trust the science” for all of the environmental crises on the horizon—including the food we grow, cultivate and eat.

We have pioneered the most advanced technologies to precisely target and direct a plant’s natural gene-editing processes: an approach accelerating the natural breeding techniques that have been staples of farming for thousands of years.


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