Dr. Nina V. Fedoroff, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the Rockefeller University gave a Distinguished Lecture on “The GMO Wars: What do we do when scientists and citizens deeply disagree?” at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) on 19th November 2018.

Addressing the faculty, students and staff at the School of Life Sciences, Dr. Fedoroff said, “Today, there continues to be a fierce controversy about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) throughout the world. Despite the long history of genetic improvement of wild plants and animals for agriculture, only those improved by modern molecular methods are designated as GMOs”.

In the beginning of her lecture, Prof. Nina Fedoroff emphasized that genetic modification of organisms is not new to humans and the major crops being sown today are a product of genetic modification, a process called domestication. Even, the green revolution in 1960s itself was a product genetic modification. However, such modifications took hundreds or thousands of years to create the high yielding modern day crops. Citing the example of the sharply increasing world population, adverse climate changes, depleting natural resources such as water and arable land, she stressed that human civilization does not have the luxury of time and should adopt all means at its disposal to improve food production, including molecular biology created GMOs. She also showcased the successful stories how GMOs such as virus resistant GM-papaya, anti-browning apples or golden rice can help poor people which are currently devoid of nutritionally rich food. She also highlighted the importance of genome-editing CRISPR technology in creating precise genetic modifications. Nevertheless, she agreed that the complex geo-political sentiments and intricate religious opinions, it is quite difficult to revert the present day negative sentiments tagged with GMOs from people’s minds. During her interaction with the audience, she acknowledged that the foreseeable food crisis in future can be minimized not only by using GMOs alone but women education and effective population control measures are also paramount to the entire scheme and also, to the sustainable agriculture and global food security. ”

Dr. Nina V. Fedoroff has served on the faculties of the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Johns Hopkins University, the Pennsylvania State University, the Santa Fe Institute and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. Fedoroff has published three books and more than 170 scientific papers. She is a member of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences and a 2006 National Medal of Science laureate. Fedoroff served as the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State and to the Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) from 2007 to 2010. She currently serves as Senior Science Advisor to OFW Law, Washington, DC. She is also the first Janaki Ammal Chair awardee from IASc, Bengaluru.

Prof. Appa Rao Podile, Vice-Chancellor, UoH Presided. Prof. K V A Ramaiah, Dean, School of Life Sciences gave the welcome while Prof. P Reddanna, faculty in Plant Sciences introduced the speaker. Dr. Rahul Kumar from Plant Sciences proposed the vote of thanks.

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