As global agriculture faces the challenge of feeding another two billion people over the next four decades, the need will be even greater for widespread adoption of herbicides, insecticides, and GMO crops — particularly in developing countries, says Leonard Gianessi.

But, he said in a seminar at Mississippi State University, opponents of ag chemicals and transgenic crops, are determined to thwart proliferation of those technologies.

“The anti-GMO, anti-pesticide movement is basically a marketing effort by various well-financed groups and organizations that are skilled in public relations, fund-raising, and lobbying,” says Gianessi, who is consultant for the CropLife Foundation In Washington.

To offset that, he says, will require a concentrated effort by ag communicators “to educate the public about the critically important benefit of these technologies.”

The foundation’s research and outreach activities are supported by CropLife America, CropLife International, and member companies. Gianessi, a former researcher at the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, where he led studies on the potential impacts of biotechnology on U.S. and European crop production, has been extensively involved in the issues of world hunger and the use of technology to meet the needs of a growing population.

In the U.S., Gianessi said in a question-and-answer session following his presentation, “There is a huge economic interest associated with organic agriculture. Those who are selling organic products want to see their market grow.

“And one way you grow your market for organics is to bash GMOs, bash the farmer, try and convince the public there’s something wrong with GMO crops and with herbicides and other crop chemistries. It’s a well-financed campaign, with the goal of bashing U.S. agriculture to increase sales of organic products.”

Among the questions directed to Gianessi:

Is the U.S. on the road to a situation similar to the European Union, where many ag chemicals are banned and getting new materials registered is difficult to impossible?

“The cost of bringing just one new molecule all the way from R&D to the marketplace is $250 million. Farmers bemoan the fact that there aren’t many new modes of action coming to market.

“It’s not so much a chemistry issue — we’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the brainpower to develop these materials. It’s the costs. A company has to invest $250 million before it can begin to try and get a return on that investment in a crowded marketplace.

“I think the industry works really well with the EPA — the EPA says, ‘Here are the rules that you have to go by,’ and as long as a company is willing to make that big investment and follow the EPA rules, they can bring new products to market.”