Pamela Ronald, a plant geneticist and wife to an organic farmer. Her TED talk is all about the synthesis of genetics and natural husbandry.
This talk is exhilarating and Dr. Ronald speaks with a verve and excitement that is infectious. After showing the ‘natural’ methods humans have used throughout our agricultural past to turn corn and bananas into edible crops, she talks about her own efforts isolating the gene that rice uses to fight off bacteriological agents.
Her frankensteined rice including the new gene “sub1”, created with her co-researcher Kenong Xu, gives hope to subsistence farmers that they will be able to grow rice even through the worst floods caused by climate change.
She isn’t done with the achievement of sub1 rice, distrubuted with the help of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, however, and goes on to give more case studies of mad science gone right. Dennis Gonsalves’ work to save the Hawaiian papaya is the simplest case – literally vaccinating papayas against viruses. She contrasts this simple gene hack with the use of pesticides in the third world by children who lack even the most basic safety tools. By using a hybrid approach that lets poorer farmers spray a biologic agent rather than toxic chemicals, Eggplant crops are preserved. It’s saddening that her work is being opposed by luddite groups that are opposed to the new technology of genetic engineering just because they do not understand them.
Chris Anderson joins Dr. Ronald to ask the questions any viewer would have on their mind. First up, Pamela responds to questions about the economic motives behind genetic mods. She dismisses the idea that – in the developing world – Bangladeshi farmers are not buying expensive Monsanto strains, but taking free seeds from aid organizations.
Her dismissal of the utterly non-scientific word “GMO” (Genetically-modified Organism) is an applause-worthy moment as fear-mongers are pushed into the light and exposed as opponents of happy, healthy humans based on fears by anti-science groups.
Dr. Ronald speaks passionately about fusing traditional husbandry and the latest technology to achieve global food security for all, and we should applaud her efforts.