People eat food every day, but many of them have no idea where their food comes from. Even fewerunderstandhow farmersare challengedtoproduce it.

Thats especially true here in Uruguay,where I grow a variety of crops and also raise livestock.The population in my country is‘poorly distributed’:About 60 percent of our populationlives on less than5 percent of our land.For everysinglepersonlike mewho lives in a rural area, 19 live in a city.

Many ofthe urban populationthinkthattheir food just shows up in grocery stores, as if it comes from an assembly line in a factory.

This can lead tobadpublic policies, written bypoliticianswho rarely set foot onafarmeven as they demand food security for themselves and their families.

So Im thankfulthatUruguay anda dozenothercountiessignedan agreementearlier this monthto supportfarmers whostrive to innovate.The titleof the agreementislongthe International Statement on Agricultural Applications of Precision Biotechnology.but the principle is simple. It calls for farmers toenjoyaccess to products that increase productivity while preserving environmental sustainability.

Signatories include our neighbors Argentina and Brazil as well as the United States, Canada,Australia, Colombia, The Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, Paraguayand Vietnam. The Secretariat of the Economic Community of West African States also gave their support.

Theyve now pledged to supportthe gene-editing techniques that promise to harness the powers of sound science and revolutionize our farms.The statementencourages countries to cooperate as they begin to take advantage of precision biotechnology, rather thantobuildtheregulatory hurdles and trade barriers thatso oftenget in the way of progress.

Ive seen what can happen whena country doesntembrace safe technologies.In Uruguay, we were slow to accept GMOs. Meanwhile, Argentina and Braziladopted them quickly, right across the border fromus. They reaped immediate rewards. All we could do is watch.

The problem wasntwithfarmers:From the start, we wanted to plant GMOs. We hoped to gaintheir special ability to fight weeds and pests. Yet we faced oppositionthatcame fromurban residentsand theirtremendous misconceptions about farming.

Some of themassumethat all farmers are millionaire landowners. Nothing could be further from the truth. I happen to be a farmer who doesnt evenowna farm: I lease the land I work. I also help out my father and participate in a couple of societies that raise crops.

Not a single acre of this land ismine. Im an excellent example of how technology can help farmers of all types. Just as it can helpthelargelandowners who depend on massive sales, it can also helpthe smallholders who simply want to feed themselves. Then there are the ordinary farmers, like me, who are somewhere in between.

We all need technologyandnow that includesaccess to precision biotechnology.

Uruguayan farmers have been plantingRoundupReady soybeans andBtcornsince 1998 but, a government change in 2008 brought a moratorium on all new GMO traits. That ban on new technology was finally lifted in early 2017. We missed out on all the new technologies for 8 and a half years!Today, I cantimaginegrowingcorn and soybeanswithout this technology.Theyve transformed our business.Yetin many ways were still catching up to our competitorsand were still fighting the old myths and misinformation that drive skepticism about GMOs.

We cant take anything for granted. Lots ofcountries continue to ban GMOs, even as theirsafety isproven and their advantages areobvious.

Uruguaysimplycantsuffer the same fate with gene editing. We need it as soon as we can have it. Perhaps becauseour governmenthasjoined the statement on precision biotechnology, we wonthave to wait.

Rather than watching our neighbors and other countries with envy,Im looking forward to a series of remarkable advances that will make farming less risky and more predictable.We need crops that can withstand drought, crops that can survive degradation, and crops that can thrive in acidic soils. And that means we need what gene editingcan deliver.

Imhopefulabout the future of farmingin Uruguay and elsewherebut onlyif we stick to the values of the International Statement on Agricultural Applications of Precision Biotechnology.