Science and Agriculture–Taking Them to the Farmers, the Teachers, the Public

Featured in the collage–upper left from left: Kent Schescke, Dr. Prakash, and David Songstad; upper right from left: Julie Tesch, William Craft, Dr. Prakash, Doyle Karr, and Kimberly Reed; lower left from left: Leela Prakash, Dr. Prakash, and Julie Borlaug Larson; lower center: Ambassador Kenneth Quinn; lower right: Dr. Prakash and Wendy Srnic.

For the sixth year in a row, the winner of the Borlaug CAST Communication Award was honored at a World Food Prize side event, and this year’s recipient—Dr. Channapatna Prakash —gave a memorable keynote address: Everything I Know about GMOs, I Learned on Social Media. Dr. Prakash and other ag/science experts made the October 14 gathering a memorable event. Highlights include the following:

CAST President David Songstad introduced Dr. Prakash by telling a personal story. Songstad met Prakash years ago—and he knew then that the dynamic researcher from India would be a leader in the realm of science and ag communication.

Wendy Srnic of DuPont Pioneer pointed out that Dr. Prakash had helped generate the “Norman Borlaug Rap”—the song was written in 2004 on the occasion of Borlaug’s 90th birthday. The YouTube version is available here.

Julie Borlaug Larson of Texas A&M spoke of her grandfather’s mission to “take it to the farmer.” She is not only continuing that effort; she believes it is also important to “take it to the public.”
The 2012 BCCA recipient, Carl Winter of UC-Davis, attended the event. Many remember his entertaining presentation three years ago. Dr. Winter will soon publish a research paper dealing with important issues regarding the use of pesticides.
World Food Prize President Kenneth Quinn noted that Norman Borlaug is a global hero. He also said that technology (even basics such as roads) leads to improved food production; biotech ag can build bridges—and peace.
CAST President-Elect Mark Armfelt reflected on the events by citing a concrete example of the efforts that go on during WFP and BCCA events. “A farmer from Uganda said with a raised voice, ‘I cannot listen to what if scenarios from some person in a lab somewhere; people in Uganda are dying from hunger; we need to employ all technologies–including GMO–to feed them. GMO food has never hurt anyone.’ Third world folks don’t want ongoing handouts; they want economic opportunity. Everyone also talked about the need for those of us in agriculture to speak up about the safety of and need for technology.”
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation organized a second session—a panel discussion about Answering the Challenge of Expo Milano 2015: Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. IFIC Foundation President Kimberly Reed moderated the session, and panelists—including Dr. Prakash, U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary William Craft, and DuPont Director of Biotechnology Public Policy Doyle Karr—discussed various topics centered around the need for effective communication about biotech and ag innovation. They also fielded questions from the audience.
At the end of the ceremony, Julie Tesch of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture spoke for her organization and the International Food Information Council Foundation as they announced the global launch of Bringing Biotechnology to Life, a free educational resource that aims to facilitate learning about agricultural biotechnology and its role in food production. Tesch built on Julie Borlaug Larson’s theme by stating that the resource is an effort to “take it to the teachers.”
Dr. Prakash’s presentation included images and commentary about the importance of food production, science, and communication. One of the slides he used shows a message from a thankful resident of Liberia after the development of an Ebola vaccine: “Thank you science.”
CAST EVP Kent Schescke summed up the occasion by saying, “CAST appreciates the opportunity to present the Borlaug CAST Communication Award as an important side event to the World Food Prize Celebration and Borlaug Dialogue. This award highlights and recognizes the importance of communicating credible science. Presenting this award during the World Food Prize provides the opportunity to link the important roles of science and technology in addressing the challenges of global food security.”

by dan gogerty

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