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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

Rohingya refugees sue Facebook over Myanmar hate speech

Internally displaced Rohingya peoples at a market area in the Baw Du Pha IDP Camp in Sittwe in Myanmar's western Rakhine state. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

Rohingya refugees accused Facebook in a $150 million lawsuit filed Monday of amplifying hate speech against the persecuted minority Muslims in Myanmar via algorithms and failing to take down inflammatory posts.

Why it matters: Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been killed in Myanmar in what the United Nations deemed a genocidal campaign. Tens of thousands of others have been displaced, notably following a massacre by Myanmar's military in 2017.

Former D.C. Guard alleges Army generals lied about Jan. 6 response

Members of the National Guard and Capitol police keep a small group of pro-Trump demonstrators away from the Capitol following the insurrection on Jan. 6. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A former D.C. National Guard official has alleged that two Army generals "lied" to Congress in their testimony on the U.S. Capitol riot, Politico first reported Monday.

The big picture: Col. Earl Matthews, who was serving on Jan. 6, alleges in a memo that the official version on the military response is "worthy of the best Stalinist or North Korea propagandist" and that the Pentagon inspector general's November report on it features "myriad inaccuracies, false or misleading statements, or examples of faulty analysis."

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: The Greensboro-Randolph Megasite will employ 1,750 people and have four production lines, each capable of delivering enough lithium-ion batteries for 200,000 vehicles when it opens, per a Toyota statement.