Environmentalism for the 21st Century

Genetic modification promises to bring a wide range of advances in human health and nutrition. As summarised by Professor Philip Stott of the University of London these include:

Foods with increased digestibility, less saturated fats, cholesterol-reducing properties, and the potential for heart and cancer health benefits.

High-performance cooking oils that will maintain texture at raised temperatures, reduce processing needs, and create healthier products from peanuts, soybeans, and sunflowers.

Edible crops that carry vaccines against diseases such as cholera, hepatitis and malaria.

Crops with reduced allergenicity, e.g. peanuts.

Crops with better storage and transport characteristics through delayed ripening and fungus/pest protection. These include bananas, pineapples, raspberries, strawberries, and tomatoes.

New subsistence crops that will extend agriculture into marginal areas such as saline soils, soils poor in nutrients, and drought-affected regions.

How can a policy of zero-tolerance for genetic modification be justified in the face of these overwhelming benefits? The bankruptcy of the anti-biotech movement position is illustrated by the example of the so-called “Terminator seeds”. When Monsanto proposed to produce a genetically modified soybean variety that produced no viable seeds, environmental groups vilified the company for condemning farmers to dependence on corporate seeds. Yet, the same environmental groups raise fears that viable seed from genetically modified plants might be harmful to the environment if they spread into the wild. So its damned if you do and damned if you don’t. These groups have made it clear that they are against all genetic modification, and they will invent any argument to support that position, regardless of logical inconsistency or demonstrated fact.

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