I am not sure how they manage it, but the NY Times seems to work overtime to find the wrong viewpoint on almost every issue. Today’s offering, Don’t Pester Europe on Genetically Modified Food by Clyde Prestowitz, is no exception.
Mr. Prestowitz’s reasons for not pushing the issue are as follows, and I quote:
– Europeans are scared to death of genetically modified food.
– There may be no good scientific reason for concern, but to consider eating something that has resulted from some laboratory manipulation is felt by many Europeans as a kind of denial of the true self. For Americans to insist that the union accept genetically modified products is bound to be felt in Europe as another exercise in American cultural and economic imperialism.
– The administration will argue that it wants only to give the consumers a choice. But as one who spent years selling to European supermarkets and consumers, I can say with confidence that such a move by the United States would very likely result in a European campaign against all American food.
–We have already caused great resentment among our European allies by rejecting the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and the International Criminal Court, both of which were championed by the European Union. Given that we will want European support for whatever actions we eventually decide to take in the Persian Gulf or in North Korea, is this really the time to mount what is bound to be a bitter, high-profile case in order to sell genetically modified potatoes?
Got that? Europeans have an irrational fear of GM foods, despite any scientific evidence, and we may upset them. Not only that, we already upset them by withdrawing from Kyoto. That is the logic behind cowering away from scientific breakthroughs that could feed billions- European fear and European resentment.
Norman Borlaug, a true Nobel Peace Laureate (Instapundit has discussed him here, here is his foundation), debunks many of the myths and much of the hysteria surrounding GM foods in a guest editorial for the Opinion Journal, aptly titled Science vs. Hysteria. An excerpt:
Current genetically modified crop varieties that help to control insects and weeds are lowering production costs and increasing harvests–a great potential benefit to all Third World farmers. Future products are likely to carry traits that will improve nutrition and health. All of these technologies have more benefits to offer poor farmers and consumers than rich ones.
For example, Kenya is ready to field-test virus-resistant sweet potatoes that should yield 30% to 50% more of this important food staple. Virus-resistant bananas and potatoes have already been bred, but are being barred in African countries where people urgently need their higher yields. Indian researchers are developing a vaccine against the epidemic livestock disease, rinderpest, which can be genetically engineered into peanut plants. African farmers would be able to protect their draft animals simply by feeding them the peanut plants–again if biotech is allowed.
The needless confrontation of consumers against the use of transgenic crop technology in Europe and elsewhere might have been avoided had more people received a better education in biological science. This educational gap–which has resulted in a growing and worrisome ignorance about the challenges and complexities of agricultural and food systems–needs to be addressed without delay. Privileged societies have the luxury of adopting a very low-risk position on the issue of genetically modified crops, even if this action later turns out to be unnecessary. But the vast majority of humankind does not have such a luxury, and certainly not the hungry victims of wars, natural disasters, and economic crises.
Without adequate food supplies at affordable prices, we cannot expect world health, prosperity, and peace. Responsible biotechnology is not the enemy; starvation is.
At least Mr. Borlaug and Mr. Prestowitz agree on one thing, as Mr. Prestowitz noted:
It is, indeed, appalling that some countries would rather starve than accept donations of genetically modified corn.
Appalling, indeed. Do you ever get the feeling that if the South hadn’t received such a bad reputation for secession that the NY Times would be circulating petitions for New Yorkto become part of the EU?