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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

Biden: Disappointing jobs report shows recovery is a "marathon," not a "sprint"

President Biden said Friday that the disappointing April jobs report, which showed the U.S. economy added just 266,000 jobs last month, underscores the importance of the COVID-19 relief package and his other proposed spending plans.

Why it matters: Economists had expected a gain of around 1 million jobs last month, making this the biggest payrolls miss, relative to expectations, in decades.

48 mins ago - Health

WHO authorizes China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

A medical worker administering a coronavirus vaccine in Nanjing, China, on May 7, 2021. Photo: Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The World Health Organization authorized China’s Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Friday, making it the sixth vaccine to receive clearance from the global health agency.

Why it matters: The authorization will allow COVAX, the WHO's initiative to equitably develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines, to purchase Sinopharm's vaccine and bolster its supply, according to the New York Times.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low — Majority back vaccine proof requirements for travel, schools and work — The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant.
  2. Politics: Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — Americans' return to the skies could benefit smaller airlines.
  5. World: Amazon postpones Prime Day sales in India and Canada over coronavirus surge — Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell — True COVID-19 death toll is double the official numbers, study finds.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.