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Dr Alan McHughen
biotechnology specialist and geneticist at the University of California in Riverside

If ignorance is bliss, it’s no wonder there are so many ecstatic people.

The challenges remain fundamentally unchanged - poverty, malnutrition, inequality, injustice - but accelerating to crescendo due to diminishing global resources, worldwide pollution, and especially the burgeoning and increasingly pathogenic human population.

The tools to redress, if not eradicate, these challenges are available, but underused due to an additional key challenge - ignorance combined with sanctimonious self-righteousness. Humanity can feed far more hungry, right far more wrongs, and live far more sustainably on this weary planet by judiciously deploying appropriate scientific tools. But fear of largely unjustified ‘risks’ combined with a fear of facing a truth that might upset a sacrosanct belief keep these tools idle.

Society is increasingly divided between the critical thinking educated and those tenaciously embracing protected political, religious or social beliefs. Many people refuse to critically challenge deeply held positions, thus choose to remain ignorant. This ‘critical thinking’ versus ‘blissful ignorance’ dichotomy divides humanity as surely as wealth or social status, and accelerates us ever closer to an inevitable post-crescendo crash. Only when people think critically, reject dogmatic beliefs and deploy appropriate technologies can we even contemplate future human generations.

Alan McHughen is author of Pandora’s Picnic Basket: The Potentials and Hazards of Genetically Modified Foods (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and coeditor of Transgenic Plants and Crops (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).

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