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Our Expert Voices conversation on food security.

A new seed variety with traits that farmers and consumers value (flavor, nutrition, and tolerance to pests, diseases, and environmental stress) can be transformative.

The tools:

  • Assisted breeding analyzes the DNA of plants to identify those that carry the optimal combination of genes encoding desirable traits. Example: a new rice variety was generated that can better tolerate floods — a key advance in India and Bangladesh where enough rice to feed 30 million people is lost to flooding.
  • Genetic engineering, which introduces genes from one species into another, has been used to create papaya plants that resist infection by a devastating virus, increasing yield, and eggplants that are resistant to caterpillars, eliminating the need for chemical sprays.
  • Genome editing allows us to make genetic changes in specific DNA sequences - without introducing "foreign" DNA. We've created mushrooms that do not brown and corn plants that are super sweet. But this tool is limited and doesn't replace the others. We haven't yet been able to edit eggplant for resistance to caterpillars, for example.

The challenge: If we want to succeed in our efforts and make effective policy decisions, we need to challenge ourselves to go beyond what instinctively feels right and look at the scientific evidence.

Bottom line: The interesting question is not how a seed variety was developed; it is about how the resulting crop will enhance food security and advance sustainable agriculture.

Other voices in the conversation:

Henk Hobbelink, agronomist, GRAIN, Support small farmers

Eric Schulze, molecular biologist, Memphis Meats, Science can't be at the expense of culture

Deborah Delmer, plant biologist, Genetic modification is an important part

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Report: Pentagon watchdog finds Ronny Jackson drank on duty and harassed staff

Rep. Ronny Jackson walking through the Canon Tunnel to the U.S. Capitol in January. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) allegedly made "sexual and denigrating" comments about a female staffer, drank alcohol and took sleeping medication while working as White House physician, according to a report obtained by CNN Tuesday night.

Driving the news: The Department of Defense inspector general's report stems from a years-long investigation. Jackson has called the allegations "false and fabricated."

DOJ pressed to enforce Al Jazeera foreign agent ruling

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Justice Department is being pressed to enforce its own demand that the U.S. arm of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera register as a foreign agent.

Why it matters: The launch of Al Jazeera's new right-of-center U.S. media venture, Rightly, has refocused attention on the media company's alleged links to Doha, and DOJ's efforts to crack down on media outlets viewed as foreign interest mouthpieces.

Poll: Immigration is America's most-polarizing issue

Data: The American Aspirations Index/Populace; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Immigration was found to be the most polarizing issue in America based on new polling from Populace.

Why it matters: Americans have surprisingly similar priorities for the U.S., but immigration stands out as one of the few issues with clear partisan differences. It underscores the challenge for advocates and lawmakers hoping to pass immigration reform in the coming weeks amid narrow margins in Congress.