Let them eat precaution

The rebuke of the Europe-wide ban on bio-engineered crops and food by the World Trade Organisation has sent anti-biotech advocacy groups scrambling, says Jon Entine, adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The United States, Argentina and Canada had argued that the moratorium had more to do with protectionism than precaution, and the WTO agreed.

If this decision is upheld by WTO members, Europe will not be forced to alter its regulations or labelling requirements or "force" consumers to "buy and eat food that they do not want," as Europe's leading consumer organisation, BEUC, claims. It will demand the EU observe its own regulatory process -- using sound science to evaluate new products. That's not been happening.

According to Entine:

  • Some European countries have been exploiting the controversy to protect their farmers and keep prices high, international agreements and public policy be damned.

  • There have been no documented health problems linked to GM crops and absolutely no evidence that genetic modification poses greater risks than crossbreeding and gene-splicing, which have given us such products as the tangelo and seedless grapes.

  • Today in the Philippines, where 42 per cent of the diet comes from white rice, a recent study by U.N. food experts estimates that Golden Rice could avert 879 deaths, 1,925 corneal ulcers and 15,398 cases of night blindness each year.

    Entine argues that there are valid concerns about biotechnology, including the degree to which corporations should be allowed to patent beneficial seeds. But years of demagoguery and misinformation have taken an enormous toll -- polluting public opinion, profoundly altering the trajectory of biotechnology application and damaging the financial wherewithal of corporations and university research projects.

    Source: Jon Entine, Let Them Eat Precaution, National Review, February 8, 2006.

    For text: http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/entine200602080747.asp

    For more on Environment: http://eteam.ncpa.org/issues/?c=biotechnology

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 21 February 2006
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