“What scares me most about the loud arguments and misinformation about plant genetics is that the poorest people, the people who most need the technology, may be denied access because of the fears and prejudices of those who have enough to eat.” – Pam Ronald
If you’ve heard that GMOs are bad, I want to introduce you to Pamela Ronald. A plant geneticist, Pamela co-authored the book Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food with her husband, Raoul Adamchak, who is an organic farmer. The second edition came out in March of this year, and if you are an avid listener you’ll know that I talk about this book often on the show.
Also known as “The Rice Whisperer,” Pamela is a Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Davis and Director of the Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy. Her laboratory studies genes that make rice plants tolerant of environmental stress and resistant to disease.
In 2015, Pamela was selected by Scientific American as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in biotechnology and by Grist magazine as an innovator who will lead us toward a more sustainable future. Tomorrow’s Table was selected as one of the best books of 2008 by Seed Magazine and the Library Journal. Her 2015 TED talk has been viewed by nearly 1.5 million people and translated into 24 languages.
Pamela and I discuss how to navigate through the confusing landscape of genetically modified or genetically engineered crops and why science matters when sifting through the politics and perceptions that surround food information today. You’ll learn about the challenges that farmers face as the Non-GMO labeling movement affects consumer choices. If you’re unsure of how you should feel about GMOs and whether or not they’re necessary for the future of sustainable agriculture, this is a must-listen episode!
What You’ll Learn from this Episode:
- How Pamela and her husband/co-author met and why they decided to write Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food.
- Why Pamela is called “The Rice Whisperer.”
- The difference between GMO, genetically modified organism, and GE, genetically engineered, and why using the term “GMO” doesn’t further a productive conversation.
- The importance of being aware of facts vs feelings and opinions vs evidence when considering anything from a scientific viewpoint.
- How politics play into the GMO/GE conversation.
- How confirmation bias affects most people’s interpretation of information they find while researching certain topics.
- Why consensus matters when it comes to science-based information.
- How genetic engineering can be used to fight pests and disease while reducing the amount of pesticides used.
- How sustainable agriculture and other tools can help drive innovation and solutions.
- Why the Non-GMO label trend is problematic.
- What Pamela has learned about communicating science to the public.
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Pam’s website
- Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak
- Pam’s TEDTalk: How genetic engineering can fight disease, reduce insecticide use and enhance food security: Pamela Ronald speaks at TED2015
- Pam’s TEDTalk speaker profile
- Pam on Twitter
- Newsweek article: The Secret to Good Communication? Alan Alda Shares his Wisdom on Relationships and Science
- NPR interview: Alan Alda Wants Us to Have Better Conversations
- If I Understood You, Would I Have this Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating by Alan Alda
- A Fair & Balanced Take on GMOs with Greg Jaffe – Sound Bites Podcast Episode #37
- US News Article: Stop the Food Label Fear-Mongering
- Food Evolution Documentary
- Pesticide Residue Calculator and more info
- National Academy of Sciences (see especially: reports and executive summaries)
- The American Society of Plant Biologists
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Music by Dave Birk
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