World class experts have converged on Saskatoon to speak at the Emerging Technologies for Global Food Security: Mobilization to the Developing World Conference organized by the Global Institute for Food Security.
The two-and-a-half-day conference began with the highly anticipated IQ2 debate, moderated by Rex Murphy, Canadian writer and journalist.
The debate began with the audience interacting in a pre-debate vote: is biotechnology necessary to feed nine billion people?
The clear answer was yes before the debate began, as shown afterward by the interactive online poll.
Four experts made up the panel with two for and two against the requirement of biotech to feed nine billion.
Mark Lynas of the Cornell Alliance for Science from Oxford, U.K., and Jennifer Thomson, emeritus professor from the University of Cape Town in South Africa led the “for” argument.
They said there are things available with genetic modification that can’t be done using conventional breeding. Therefore, it is necessary.
Peter Langridge, a professor from the University of Adelaide in Australia, and Barbara Burlingame, a nutrition professor from Massey University in New Zealand, ran the “against” argument.
They said genetic modification is not essential to feed a population of nine billion because other tools are available.
Langridge did not see GM as the silver bullet solution and emphasized it takes a long time to develop.
“I think we need to remember that the delivery of technology is a very slow and complex process. There’s a long time lag to see a new technology adopted and implemented,” said Langridge.
Lynas countered that GM has already facilitated value in production and quality of crops and said it can easily be seen in Canada with the practice of no till.
After the closing arguments, viewers online and within the audience were asked for their post-debate votes.
The pre and post voting results exposed the skewed audience opinion. There really was no debate for an audience gathered at a biotech conference.
Murphy closed out the debate by commending the panel for discussing such a controversial topic.
“The credentials of the people dealing with this were so deep and their positions nonetheless were presented with reason, argument, background and research and so you have a clash of an extremely dividing kind of issue that has scientific and other dimensions attached to it, but this debate I think reeled it all out,” said Murphy.