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Professor Jonathan DG Jones
senior scientist at the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre

I work on how plants resist disease and how microbes cause disease. Progress in the last 18 years has been spectacular and will remain so. This knowledge provides strategies for reducing crop losses. However, to use this knowledge, we need to get over our irrational societal neurosis about genetically-modified crops and genetically-modified food. The arguments against this beneficial technology owe more to religious fundamentalism than analysis.

We are nearing or have reached peak oil production. A major scientific challenge is to derive enough energy from current photosynthesis to replace fossil photosynthesis. Again, to solve the problem, we must overcome neurosis about genetically-modified organisms.

We should ask ourselves what our population should be. Already, humans intercept 30% of total terrestrial photosynthesis, a staggering consumption of resources by one species. To raise living standards of the poor, and retain and promote the planet’s biodiversity by sharing more with other species, there needs to be fewer of us.

To make the right judgements about our future, with tolerance and sensitivity, we need a scientific, rational culture. That is now threatened by religious fundamentalism. At the risk of replacing one fundamentalism with another, the track record of all religions reveals them as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

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