GM crops are widely vilified, despite their contributions to agriculture. I will try to explain why the GM method (it is a method, not a thing) has much more to contribute, and why excessive regulation of deployment of the method is not in the public interest because this postpones genetic solutions to crop problems such as disease, and plays into the hands of those few companies that can spend the money to achieve regulatory approval. A key message will be, please think critically when NGOs tell you GM is bad.
Brexit will be extremely damaging to UK science if we lose access to Horizon 2020 funding instruments, particularly to ERC funding. A tiny silver lining around the big dark cloud that is Brexit, lies in the opportunity to establish a science-based, fit-for-purpose regulatory framework for crop varieties that have been improved using the GM method, and using new methods such as gene editing. I will kick off a discussion on what that framework might look like.
Jonathan DG Jones is a leading researcher in plant/microbe interactions. He has a degree in Botany (1976) and Ph.D. in Genetics from the Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge (1980). While a PhD student, he worked with Tim Lang, Charlie Clutterbuck and others in the Agricapital Group of BSSRS to produce two issues of “Science for People”. After postdoctoral work on symbiotic nitrogen fixation in legumes at Harvard, and five years in the private sector (1983-8) at startup ag-biotech company Advanced Genetic Sciences (AGS) in Oakland, California, he joined The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich in 1988. He made landmark discoveries on plant immunity to disease, and on isolation and deployment of novel genes for resistance to Phytophthora infestans, the potato late blight pathogen.
He is a leading advocate of using GM methods for crop improvement, especially to elevate crop disease resistance. Dr. Jones has co-founded 2 companies; Mendel Biotechnology, founded in 1997 to discover and exploit new regulators of crop productivity, and Norfolk Plant Sciences Ltd, to combine health promoting traits and disease resistance traits in potato and tomato. He was elected a Professor at the University of East Anglia in 1997, a member of EMBO in 1998, Fellow of the Royal Society in 2003, and Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2015.
He is an advisor to www.2Blades.org and is a board member of www.ISAAA.org and he has participated in several working groups on genetics and food security:
Jonathan also joined the FRC for a Food Bites to give us a snapshot snapshot of what the current issues in the food system are and what civil society organisations and academics could be doing to work towards solutions.