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Jewish World Review June 27, 2001 / 6 Tamuz, 5761

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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Consumer Reports

O, fearful new world -- FOOD is "hazardous" to your health. Or so argued Greenpeace activists protesting the Bio 2001 biotechnology convention in San Diego as they stormed a grocery store this weekend and stuck "hazardous" labels on foods that may contain genetically modified (GM) corn, soy or cottonseed.

They call them Frankenfoods. They warn that GM foods are dangerous to human health, even though there is not one documented case of someone being hurt by eating Frankenfood. They complain that GM foods will result in "monocultures" -- or a world with a single variety of crop. They apparently don't know or care about seed banks, which exist to ensure biodiversity of food crops. The anti-biotech crowd boasts that it is pro "biodiversity."

The Anti's biggest beef with GM foods is that corporations develop them. "The real violence being done here is being done every day by these corporations up in their ivory towers," said Adam Hurtler, a spokesman for the anti-Bio 2001 protest, Bio Devastation 2001.

Funny, Hurtler talking about ivory towers. He also told The Washington Post: "We have enough food. We have enough medicine. The real roots of the global health crisis are inequality and injustice, and that's what the biotech industry is perpetuating."

Some 150 million children suffer from malnutrition each year; yet Hurtler said there is enough food. According to UNICEF, in 1990, 12 million children died of preventable diseases; yet Hurtler said there is enough medicine.

One protest sign read, "Biotech Perverts Get Out of Our Genes." Which explains the opposition to biotechnology perfectly. The anti-biotech crowd is so afraid that they might get a gene they don't like in their corn flakes that they would try to stop companies from putting Vitamin A in rice. It matters not if Golden Rice (as the enriched grain is known) could save millions of lives in the Third World. They've got their wheels, their laptops and their frequent-flier miles, and they'll use them to make sure some starving kid in Calcutta is never tainted with Golden Rice.

"The trouble is that if they admit there's one good genetically modified product, then they would have to admit there might be others, and they would be reduced to a rational discussion on the subject, like the rest of us," said Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace who became disillusioned with the movement's misanthropic extremism.

It especially rankles Moore that the "anti" activists don't see how biotechnology can improve biodiversity. Moore sees three advantages. First, increased farm productivity reduces "the way forests are converted into crop production, which is in itself the biggest cause of biodiversity loss."

Second, GM seeds with greater crop yields can ease the need for tillage, which reduces soil loss. Third, GM seeds that target hostile insects allow farmers to use pesticides more discriminately.

"I use less pesticide on my crops, and I am getting more food out of my fields," Iowa soybean farmer Reg Clause said in a pro-biotech "Truth Squad" statement. "If I had any doubts about the safety of these crops, I wouldn't grow them, and I wouldn't let my family work in the fields with them."

Moore believes that the anti-biotech movement will be short-lived because his erstwhile colleagues are "against all genetic modification. That completely goes against the grain of evolution, human history, basic logic and the urge to discover."

The turnout for Bio Devastation 2001 suggests he is right. Activists predicted as many as 8,000 demonstrators. Newspaper estimates range from 500 to 1,000. It seems as if the number of angry demonstrators anxious to protest more food and medicine has a limit.

Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate