The Arena for Accountable Predictions

The Long Now Foundation has a fabulous website where you can make predictions about the future that are societally or scientifically important.

Make a prediction or challenge a prediction.

My prediction is simply this:

"By 2020, GE crops will be grown on 10 fold more acreage than they are today, will be widely accepted by consumers and will have clearly benefited the goals of sustainable agriculture"

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We can certainty hope. I think we will always have a self sustaining community of true believers who will insist that GE crops poison the soil, the environment, and the eater, regardless. Look no further than the anti-vax movement for proof of that, and vaccines stopped smallpox, a tough act for any technology to follow. But I hope that in time, the majority of people will realize that such fears are unjustified, and more people will realize that GE tech is no more an enemy than fire, and realize it is just another tool used to improve agriculture, just like breeding.

I look forward to a future where genetic engineering, breeding, and diversification are one. A future where we make the most use out of everything we're provided. Where people can go to the superstores and farmer's markets and buy all manners of crops, moderately uncommon ones like jicama, oca, pawpaw, goumi, mulberry, rose apple, jaboticaba, salak, and cassabanana, to real out there things, like engkalak, zabala, bushveld cherry, native cherry*, marula, safou, and velvet tamarind, and everything in between. I imagine a future where we grow so many crops no single pest or plague will ever be a great threat (diversity), selected for the best possible taste, nutrition, disease resistance, yield, and hardiness (breeding), genetically enhanced so that they can be grown or shipped to where they could never go otherwise, grown with less input, with boosts to the bred in improvements, maybe with novel and useful traits, like using cisgenic techniques to combine the traits of sweet corn and perennial corn, and as a bonus some would be impossible to cross pollinate the native species (genetic engineering).

I hope people realize it is not an either or, all or nothing kind of thing. You wouldn't expect someone to build a house with hammers alone while saws are forbidden. Problems must be approached 'holistically' so to say. I hope that the opposition to GE crops comes to the realization that staunch opposition to new technology and drawing lines in the sand will get us nowhere. Yesterday the University of Texas reported that 8% of human DNA is viral in origin. We are, as it seems, just like the Rainbow papaya. As more information like this comes in, and as more and more people continue to eat billions of genetically modified meals, I hope people see how silly it is to oppose something simply on the basis that it is genetically altered, especially with things like population growth. There is too much to gain, and to lose, by rejecting the march of scientific progress that has gotten us so much already, especially in the area of sustainable sustenance.

*Also, in my hoped for future, we've eliminated common names that refer to other species. Ugh, I hate those :)

By Party Cactus (not verified) on 07 Jan 2010 #permalink

"You wouldn't expect someone to build a house with hammers alone while saws are forbidden. "

Great analogy! I hope you don't mind if I borrow it in future discussions.

Thanks, I don't mind at all, but actually it's kind of your analogy to begin with. It's a variation on the one you used about offering a hammer to screw in screws in your marker assisted breeding article :)

By Party Cactus (not verified) on 07 Jan 2010 #permalink

I'd love to have your optimism, but I feel there's too much hostility towards GE crops here in the UK and the rest of Europe for me to share in it.

I think it will take maybe a decade for widespread acceptance of GM crops in Europe - at present the available traits are predominantly the same old same old, the misconceptions, lies, and fears are all apparently ingrained into the European psyche somehow (although the fear doesnt seem quite so bad now as it did in the 90's, I'm not convinced it is even close to being hysterical enough to inspire me to persue a career in genetics any more, so I'm somewhat glad that all those decisions were made 15 or so years ago) - hopefully newer traits coming from big biotech, and the (hopefully) plethora of academic projects which will come to fruition over the next ten years will inspire enough good will that at least some of the nonsense about GM crops can be put behind us and things can at the very least be looked at on a case by case basis rather than being written off entirely based on the technology behind the whole endeavor.

Although frankly I dont think I'd wager $50 on that. (or against it for that matter, I likes my $50 too much to risk it either way)

I'm intruiged by Pam's prediction also - and as I dont have access to my work computer right now I was hoping maybe you could fill in some of the blanks in my mind - such as what %age of the world's crop acreage is currently GM, and what %age is likely to be available to GM cropping in the next 11 years?

My guess is that a transgenic wheat could vastly change the global acreage utility, although I dont see one in the works for at least about a decade, likewise transgenic rice - although that is way more likely within a shorter timespan (what with it actually being ready and all)

I forget what the current Casava status is - I recall from seeing the improved Zinc variety that while the zinc was increased, the roots produced were rather poor looking and unlikely to be utilized soon - although again, perhaps in the next decade or so this may be ready, and I dont recall ever seeing pics of other improved casava (higher protein etc) - that'd be a pretty major shift also

The other major stumbling block I see is the regulatory process - how optimistic is the academic world that regulatory approvals will become less stringent(or expensive) in the next decade globally? To me this would seem to be the biggest roadblock for a massive influx of GM crops, but as covered by other responders general public fear of GM is unlikely to allow governments to relax things.

You were too kind to call them Green 1.0. I think they are Green Beta. Considering that Alpha was probably the start in the 70's, though it hasn't really evolved much since then.

On the widespread adoption, I am not so sure, though I certainly hope so. Green organizations have simply too much money in their pockets, so they can, and most likely will, keep spreading lies about GM on a global scale for the next ten years and maybe even more time.

What really needs to be done is to campaign for much lower regulatory burdens so that GM crops can flow into the market at a much faster pace than the greens can handle :p

Going to agree with Pamâs prediction.

Too many European companies with too much lobbying power are getting into the game to prevent this.

The restrictions were a manipulation of public fears by the EU to keep an already ridiculously subsidized French production competitive. The Russian and Ukrainian press were doing the same thing by promulgating insane reports about con-agra spuds causing âmutationâ.

Now that Syngenta and Limagrain are racing to bring fungal resistant wheat to market and Bayer is working on rice strains, the very forces that kept GMOs out of the markets to remain competitive will be forcing those markets open in anticipation of their GMOs.


Have fun hating Monsanto when Pam Ronald's for-profit GMO rice development competitor is Bayer, the company that funded Josef Mengele's grant proposals.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 11 Jan 2010 #permalink

I think climate change is going to drive GMO acceptance. Countries with severe problems in growing food need the most effective technologies available, genetic or not.