Allan Wenck

We Can Only Love What We Know

I am very excited to see that the movie “Food Evolution” is coming to RTP! I was fortunate enough to see this movie at the June meeting of the Society for In Vitro Biology in Raleigh and it quickly became a hit for me.

Back in 1985, I gave a natural science seminar as part of my work towards a Bachelor’s degree. At that time, the field that was to become Agricultural Biotechnology was in its infancy. I presented exciting new findings concerning Agrobacterium – a soil bacteria which could introduce new genes into plants and how this bacteria could be used to produce plants with superior traits. Such traits could allow for a more sustainable agricultural approach utilizing fewer applications of insecticides, better control of weeds less carbon footprint and lower soil erosion caused by mechanical weed control, as well as further consumer benefits such as improved food and feed health profiles through changes in oil components, nutrients and protein content. This new technology, in combination with other tools and improvements, would allow agriculture to feed many more people with less environmental impact. I saw a great, bright future for these genetically enhanced (GE) crops and I wanted to be part of that future.

As one who considers himself to be “green” I was shocked and saddened to find that the current “green” movements did not share my enthusiasm for this new tool. For reasons that are unclear to me, they rejected any thought that such tools had a proper place in a sustainable society. Seemingly arbitrarily, the organic movement rejected this technology while accepting other, less precise, methods of modifying traits and technologies such as traditional breeding and cultivation methods that have a far greater, negative environmental impact.

Food Evolution in many ways brings us back to that point in time before that split and asks: what if the environmental movement was wrong to reject genetically modified technology? Environmentalist, author and former Greenpeace director Mark Lynas laments the fact that “green” groups adhere to the scientific consensus concerning climate change while rejecting it completely when it comes to the subject of genetically modified foods. Such disregard of science caused Mark to break with Greenpeace and to publicly denounce his former efforts aimed at destroying tests of oilseed rape, sugar beet and maize in the UK. As documented in the movie, a recent American Association for the Advancement of Science pole showed that 88% of scientists agree that GE food is safe whereas only 37% of the public agree that it is. Interestingly only 87% of scientists agree that climate change is due to human activity whereas 50% of the public agree.

Allan Wenck
Allan Wenck
Allan Wenck
Bayer, Head of US Trait Validation Operations

Food Evolution documents how technologies not only benefit modern farmers, but also benefit subsistence farmers. The movie documents not only how a GE solution saved the Hawaiian papaya industry but also how a GE solution could potentially save subsistence banana farmers from a devastating bacterial disease. It breaks my heart to see the devastation to the livelihood of these people and to see that solutions are blocked by groups who sow fear for profit. As Mark Lynas points out “It's so much easier to scare people than reassure them".

Food Evolution has attracted much controversy since its release with many groups calling on people to not go see it. In my opinion, when a certain group warns you against something it is because they are afraid that it might make you think in a way they are scared of you thinking. As Mark Twain once said – and quoted in the movie – "It's easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled".

Food Evolution will be playing at the Carolina Theater Thursday, Oct 5. There will be a panel discussion with prominent guests including award winning director Scott Hamilton Kennedy, Dr. Kevin Folta and others for a panel Q&A. If you are in the area, go to see the movie; examine what it has to say, think for yourself and engage those who don’t want you to see it! More information available at

http://www.ncbiotech.org/event/nc-film-premiere-food-evolution/230346

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