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How to Feed a Planet feat. Dr. Channa Prakash

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In a change of pace for Decouple, I am joined by Dr. Channa Prakash for a wide-ranging discussion on crop science and agriculture. We discuss biotechnology, its history, and the great positive changes it has brought to global food production. We also assess the strongest criticisms. Among those are concerns that we have become dependent on chemical inputs for farming, namely pesticides and fertilizers, and that this has often lead to the over-application of these chemicals resulting in environmental hazards. Additionally, many are concerned that a reliance on these chemical inputs, or on genetically modified crop varieties, has led to the “corporatization” of farming.

Dr. Prakash brings numerous real-world examples policy blunders regarding food, often with destructive consequences. In particular, we focus in on Sri Lanka, where the recent banning of fertilizer and pesticide imports in a move to become an all-organic food exporter has set off a farming and economic crisis.

The soft face of these harsh policies is the organic food movement, which has gained popularity in recent years. While some consumers may decide to purchase organic foods for a higher price, believing them to be more sustainably grown, organic certification opposes some of the very principles that have allowed us to feed growing populations. And it opposes the crop science that may enable us to use fewer pesticides and fertilizers, meet the nutritional of the hungry, and adapt to the challenges to food security posed by a changing climate. Finally, we take a step back to reflect on our relationship with food, why we have such strong opinions about how it’s grown and where it comes from, and patterns in the social acceptance of different technologies.

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Dr. Channa S. Prakash is a Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Tuskegee University (USA) where he has served as faculty since 1989 and is a professor of crop genetics, biotechnology, and genomics. Everybody should follow his fantastic Twitter profile: @AgBioWorld

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