The story of how genetic engineering saved the Hawaiian papaya industry gets lost in the discussion of agronomic crop uses of the technology. This story is important because this is not just a story of technology — it is the story about people.
Joni Kamiya tells the story of growing up on her family’s farm and the changes that came with the virus and how the genetically engineered saved production of this traditional crop for their family.
The second part of the podcast visits with Cornell plant virologist Dr. Dennis Gonsalves. He studied papaya ringspot virus in the 1970’s and 1980’s, designing clever solutions to treat the disease that plagued the industry in his home state. Into the 1990’s he teamed with others working in genetic engineering to develop a solution for papaya. While the first half of his interview is about the disease and the techniques used to solve it, the second half is about the satisfaction of being a kid growing up, going to university, studying under brilliant and kind supervisors that taught him to think about science, but to also think about people.
This is a wonderful interview with a warm and charming wayward Hawaiian boy that returned home to rescue small-farmers growing a traditional crop in the place he loves. He also touches on how activists derail technology deployment, and how public-sector scientists need to step up in efforts to create products and engage the public.
Visit Kevin Folta’s Talking Biotech site here.