Until his favorite heirloom tomatoes died on the vine after succumbing to late blight disease, Chef Dan Barber believed that science when applied to agriculture was “suspect, a violation of the slow food aesthetic”. Unfortunately, this distrust of science hurts farmers, consumers, and the planet. It also ignores 100 years of scientific progress.
In 1905, Sir Rowland Biffen generated disease resistant wheat varieties, demonstrating for the first time that Mendel’s laws of inheritance could be applied to plant breeding. Today most of the fruits and vegetables that we eat (including those certified organic) carry “natural” disease resistance genes. Without the use of genetically improved crop varieties we would have few ecologically-based tools to combat pests and diseases. The alternative is overuse of pesticides, many of which harm the environment and human health.
Does it take a 20% increase in the cost of heirloom tomato salad and commentary by a famous chef before science can be seen as a positive force for public good in the U.S.?
For some, this is apparently so. I hope this changes because without good science and good farming, we cannot even begin to dream about establishing an environmentally balanced, biologically based system of farming and ensuring food security.