“We need to include science and values; scientists, farmers, and the public must work together on these common goals.” – Karthik Aghoram
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Karthik Aghoram explored sustainable food production in the 2016 Faculty Distinguished Lecture, which he titled “Less Land. More Food. No Fights.”
The lecture was held on March 15, which Aghoram noted was National Agriculture Day. This year is also the 150th anniversary of Gregor Mendel’s landmark publication, Experiments on Plant Hybridization.
Aghoram shared a brief overview of the pioneers of plant hybridization, which started with “deliberate, methodical plant breeding” that allowed food production to increase.
The first generation of genetically engineered (GE) crops were disease resistant, herbicide tolerant, and insect resistant – all “farmer friendly traits.”
“GE has allowed for more food production using less land. Sixty-eight percent less land is used to produce the same amount of food,” Aghoram said. “In 1840, 70 percent of the workforce worked on farms. Now less than two percent do.”
The second generation of GE crops are more focused on consumer needs, such as decreasing vitamin deficiencies, and creating non-browning fruits and vegetables to reduce food waste.
Aghoram acknowledged that every new technology brings controversy. The harmonious approach he proposed focuses on the common goals of less land, more food, agreeing that farmer profit and sustainability are important, and to consider environmental stewardship and social justice.
“We need to include science and values; scientists, farmers, and the public must work together on these common goals,” said Aghoram, who interviewed a variety of experts on issue, including organic farmers, scientists, and academics in related fields, while preparing for his lecture.
“By working together, scientists can benefit farmers while considering consumer needs and values,” said Aghoram. “A combination of good agronomic practices and genetically improved seed can equal safe, scientific agriculture. There’s no reason these two concepts should be incompatible.”
About Karthik Aghoram
Karthik Aghoram has been a member of the Meredith College faculty since 2005. His areas of research include Cell Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with an emphasis on plants. Aghoram’s interests extend into the science communication, especially on the role of modern crop-breeding techniques such as genetic engineering as part of a responsible and sustainable crop production system. As part of this communication and outreach effort, he teaches an agricultural biotechnology workshop for high school teachers. He has also published articles related to this topic in popular media. Aghoram holds B.Sc. and M.Sc degrees from Bangalore University in India. He earned a Ph.D., in Biological Sciences from Florida State University and completed his post-doctoral training in Crop Science at North Carolina State University.
The Faculty Distinguished Lecture was designed to represent a significant achievement of research by a faculty member. The first lecture was presented in 1964 by Professor of English Norma Rose.
Watch The Meredith Minute featuring Associate Professor Karthik Aghoram at youtube.com/meredithcollege.