The Los Baños scientific community came out in full force to welcome Sir Richard J. Roberts, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, at his recent conferment of the Degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, by the University of the Philippines (UP) for his contributions in the field of molecular biology on November 21, 2018 at UP Los Baños in Laguna, Philippines.
Sir Richard Roberts is best known for his discovery of split genes, RNA splicing, and his contributions to the wide availability of restriction enzymes. His discovery of the split gene structure, and consequently, the understanding of RNA splicing, has become one of the basic knowledge of molecular biology today, while restriction enzymes have become vital tools in all molecular biology laboratories. Essentially, the practical applications of Roberts’ discovery completely altered the course of genetic research and led to momentous developments in different fields including medicine.
He is likewise a fervent advocate of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and led recent efforts urging Greenpeace and other anti-GMO groups to cease their campaign against GMOs. He articulated to religious, government leaders, academics and the general public how GMO works to improve productivity and nutrition. Using the Nobel Prize platform, he persuaded 138 other Nobel Laureates to support the safe and responsible use of recombinant technology as a tool for improving plant varieties.
In his address and lecture during the conferment ceremony, he spoke at length about the potential of GMOs to address food security and malnutrition especially in developing countries as well as the role of each sector in promoting the safety of genetically engineered crops.
“We need more science in politics and less politics in science. Politicians must listen to the scientists they fund. [We should] stop supporting the idea that food produced by GMO methods must be inherently dangerous when science shows that they are not,” he stated.
(Danellie Joy O. Medina, SEARCA-BIC)