Is it hot in here or is it just climate change?

02/25/2010 06:11:19 AM
Tom Karst

 In sum, I think that improving both the productivity and environmental sustainability of food production in a changing climate is among the most profound challenges facing face humanity in the 21st century. Thank you.

[Applause] MODERATOR: We can take one or two quick questions.

REPORTER: In your historical review, let me ask this about the patenting of advances. Under FDR and Henry Wallace, in fact the fathers of Henry Wallace too and grandfather, it was very explicit that food seeds should not be patented. I realize that’s a way of life of the last 30 years under globalization. But with many changes in the world today including in your scarcity map, which was very interesting, of water scarcity that included part of Siberia and China and Asia, there are many paradigm shifts.

There’s a whole nuclear power resurgence in China, India and Russia, South Korea. So we could be thinking outside the box in this way. Would you address a rollback in the patenting in terms of changing regulations, especially since there’s a fracas now of fighting between Monsanto and Dupont and others. Thank you.

F: I doubt it. I think the intellectual property protection is not likely to be rolled back. I’d also remind you that protection of life forms really did come from plants, from the Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970. And that really was the basis on which the first bacterial patents were issued.

That train has left the station, and frankly it is really what allows companies to produce what they do and invest in the research that they do. I think we would lose more than we would gain. In fact I was just in India last week. We were having this discussion, and there was a recognition.

 They are very ambivalent because they have a great dedication to the public sector. But the public sector in this particular case is not terribly efficient.

REPORTER: Hello. I’m wondering if you looked into the crops quinoa which is I believe drought-tolerant.

 F: Yes.

REPORTER: And salicornia which is saline-tolerant.

F: Actually, the last slide I showed is one that I got from the Seawater Foundation, and they really have developed salicornia. In fact it’s one of the major—that’s a point I didn’t make—it’s one of the major hopeful crops for biofuels.

It really does make a high quality oil. There’s a lot of reading to do. There’s some molecular biology to do. But I think that, together with mangroves as carbon sinks and inland waterways could really make a huge difference in the most arid parts of the world.

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