Genetically-modified foods are mired in false controversy

Genetically-modified foods offer promise to underdeveloped countries where malnutrition and low yields are rampant, yet many environmental activists are opposed to their research, development and use.

So far, G.M. technology used in a variety of crops has produced benefits on many levels. According to the American Enterprise Institute:

  • Environmentally and economically -- G.M. technology has produced insect-resistant and drought-resistant soybeans, wheat and cotton, reducing the need for pesticides and costly irrigation, and increasing yields.

  • Nutritionally – the daffodil gene can increase the amount of Vitamin A in rice, preventing blindness in nearly half a million children in developing countries each year.

    Furthermore, there is no evidence that G.M. foods are harmful. Gene-splicing and hybridisation have been used for years, resulting in foods such as seedless grapes and tangelos. Protein supplements given to cows beginning a decade ago have increased their milk yields without changing the milk itself..

    Far be it for facts to get in the way of the opposition. Anti-biotech groups have now turned to requiring a “precautionary principle” be used for G.M. foods, including mandatory labelling. However, such labelling would likely feed on the fears of those wary of science and result in a stigmatisation of such products. Michael Passoff, of the group As You Sow, admits that their goal in requiring labelling is to spook companies from carrying G.M. foods at all for fear of alienating customers.

    Meanwhile, anti-G.M. activists have scared Zambia into refusing G.M. grain that could feed their population.

    John Entine of the American Enterprise Institute agrees that there are issues over G.M. foods that need to be addressed, such as how much control G.M. companies should have over patents, however, he says, “What is lacking…is a public discussion about the existing and potential benefits of biotechnology.”

    Source: John Entine, Let Them Eat Precaution, American Enterprise Institute, March 2004.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin\1 June 2004
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