Robert Fraley Monsanto

(Eric) It’s our pleasure to visit with the first ever Henry C. Gardner lecturer on global food systems at Kansas State University. His name is Dr. Robert Fraley and he is a Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer with Monsanto. Dr. Fraley, it’s a pleasure to have you here on the K-State campus. Did you envision the levels of success with biotech crop development and advancement that we’ve witnessed? (Robert) There’s no way in 1983 we could have anticipated we’d be here today with biotech crops being grown in 30 countries around the world, you know being used by literally tens of millions of farmers and in many ways this has become one of the most rapidly adopted technologies in the history of agriculture. (Eric) How would you define a genetically modified organism? (Robert) I was just talking today with some of the students here and explaining that that gets harder and harder to answer because on the one hand, man has been genetically modifying crops from the beginning of time. You know, all of the crops that we grow and enjoy in this country have come from other countries. They’ve been, you know the process of selection and breeding and mitogenesis and genetic modification and today with our modern breeding tools, we know the sequence of every gene in a crop. We’re literally breeding gene by gene. And then you put into context biotechnology and GMOs, where we’re even being more precise and we’re able to introduce one of two genes very specifically and add yet another benefit to the crop. So, it’s kind of a blur, but I would say that there’s fewer differences than there are commonalities. And the purpose of both of these methods is to take advantage of genetic diversity and produce crops that are higher yielding that help farmers grow more to ensure food security for the world. (Eric) Is that definition getting out to the public? (Robert) One of the things that I look back on and really regret is, you know when we were able to launch those first biotech products, the Round Up ready soybeans in the mid 90’s, we put all of our energy into talking to our customers, farmers about the products and the benefits and we did a great job. Over 90 percent of the soybean farmers in this country use a biotechnology crop. But what we didn’t do was spend the effort we should have talking to consumers. That’s where we have to play catch up. So, we’re very much involved now with direct outreach to consumers, both as a company through our industry and you know, I think there’s a lot of interest in food. People have a lot of questions and it’s all of our opportunity to talk to consumers. I mean the Moms and the foodies and the millennials and the chefs about why innovation in agriculture is gonna be so important to meet the food challenges of the future. But to be able to use those techniques to farm more intensively and more sustainably in order to ensure that we can protect the environment. I think that the challenge for food security that we face is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind. And 2050 you know if you say it really fast, it seems like a long way away, but you know it’s 35 years. And when I talk to kids and I talked to a bunch of the students earlier, I made the point was by the time those students that I talked to this morning are my age, the decisions that we have made or not made, the tools that we’ve elected to use or not use are gonna determine whether we have a food secure world or not.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.