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Ingo Potrykus
chair of the Humanitarian Golden Rice Board and Network, and emeritus professor of plant sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

It will be necessary to produce much more food, on less land, with less water. Agro-biotechnology could play a key role, if not burdened by unjustified restrictions. The outstanding restriction is ‘extreme precautionary regulation’ of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), preventing the potential of public research and development to deliver products. Progress in science presents a powerful basis for the development of crop plants being nutritionally optimised, pest- and disease-resistant, resistant to drought and flooding, saline and heavy metal environments, and with higher potential for the exploitation of natural resources. But this powerful potential will reach a dead end, if society does not solve the following problems:

  1. De-demonize GMOs and inform the public that these are perfectly ‘normal’ plants. (There is not a single crop plant which has not been extensively ‘genetically modified’ by traditional interventions!)
  2. Reform GMO-regulation such that it evaluates ‘traits’, not GM-technology, and takes decisions on balancing ‘benefits’ versus ‘risks’. (Because of the time and financial requirements of present regulation, no public institution can afford to take a single transgenic event to the marketplace.)
  3. Establish public funding schemes for ‘product development’ and ‘deregulation’. (Humanitarian problems are problems of the public sector and should not be expected to be solved by the private sector.)
  4. Encourage establishment of ‘public-private-partnerships’ for the solution of humanitarian problems. (The private sector has the necessary experience for solutions of practical problems.)
  5. Establish a rewarding system for those in academia, who sacrifice their academic career by contributing to solutions of humanitarian problems. (Academia receives much of its funding because the public believes that it is helping to solve humanitarian problems.)

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