Lost in the trees
Commentary by Mike McMorris, LRIC CEO, November 2021
Precision seems to be the way to go - precision agriculture, precision genetics, precision medicine - or is it?
I am reading a fascinating book called “Rebel Cell” by Kat Arney and as I near the end, it seems that a key message is that in our chase for precision, we have lost sight of a much bigger and more important story.
It turns out that cancer is like many Millenia’s worth of evolution, within one’s body, in as little as a few months. Like the evolution that led to all the life forms we see around us, coming from a lone single-celled being that changed billions of years ago, cancer cells mutate, evolve and differentiate far more than we previously knew. Cancer cells within a single tumour can have very different genetic mutations and make up. Because of this, precision itself, meaning efforts to detect and focus on single mutations in DNA, can have very limited results.
It seems that stepping back, taking a large amount of data into account and using artificial intelligence to detect patterns may prove a more effective way to treat cancer. For sure we need to focus on data and precision in agriculture, but we also need to be sure to keep an eye on the big picture and watch for patterns.
Every sector in livestock agriculture is interconnected and part of a much bigger picture. Excess focus on a single issue, sector or today’s status quo may lead to less than desirable outcomes.
Let’s not get lost in the trees, but keep an eye on the forest as well.