Seed World

Seed Speaks: Are Vaccines Calming Fears Over Biotech?

In the fight against public fear over biotechnology, the scientific community could have an unexpected ally: COVID-19 vaccines.

All four products developed to prevent the illness — the BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines — are derived through biotechnology.

Stuart Smyth, enhancement chair in agri-food innovation and sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan, says mass enthusiasm over the vaccines could very well help the public to further realize that biotechnology is hugely beneficial to Canadians and not something to fear.

“So much of the media coverage, thankfully, is making note of the fact that these vaccines are biotechnology-developed and is highlighting the safety and efficacy of this technology. The public has been seeing the words ‘biotech’ and ‘safety’ together as part of the daily conversation,” he said.

“The public has been greatly reassured by the biotech development of COVID vaccines and are thinking, ‘Well, if I’m willing to put a vaccine developed through biotechnology in my arm to prevent COVID, then my opposition to eating a genetically modified or gene edited food product is kind of irrelevant.'”

Smyth will join two other experts on tomorrow’s episode of Seed Speaks to try and answer an important question: are COVID vaccines a shot in the arm for the biotech discussion?

Joining Smyth and host Marc Zienkiewicz will be Ron DePauw, science advisor for SeCan and one of Canada’s most well-known wheat breeders, and Dr. Kevin Folta, science communicator and podcast host based in Florida. They’ll discuss the history of biotech in medicine, its use in plant breeding and agriculture, and how you can help educate the public about how biotechnology helps us immensely in our daily lives.

Join the discussion live at 12 p.m. CDT on the Seed World YouTube channel.