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Biotech: Saving Lives Despite The Smears

Americans have spoken: Consumers trust genetically improved foods. A new Purdue University survey finds that, after being informed about the science behind biotech, nine out of ten consumers would put genetically improved foods on their table. Additionally, more four out of five believe biotech is amply regulated and more restrictions need not be introduced.

But it is essential that consumers hear the truth — especially since anti-technology activists have built an industry around smearing biotech. Says Charles Santerre, Purdue professor of foods and nutrition: “Consumer education is an important aspect in the adoption of any new technology, and especially so when it comes to safe, economical food production.”

Santerre suggests that activist propaganda can undermine the truth about biotech. “Americans, by and large, have much more trust and confidence in their medical professionals and federal government agencies… to provide them with accurate, science-based information on this technology.” But in Europe, consumers “are more likely to listen to Greenpeace and other environmental groups.” Hence Europe’s generally less favorable view of genetic improvement.

Despite Santerre’s survey, the director of the World Health Organization’s assertion that biotech can become a “major lifesaver,” and the European Union’s declaration that biotech products are “even safer than conventional plants and foods,” anti-technology zealots continue their efforts as part of a campaign to promote organic products instead. (In Mexico, where their influence has been particularly strong, biotech researchers trying to increase crop yields and create better products may actually be thrown in prison under a new “biosafety” law, Science Now reports.)

But “organic crops won’t feed [the] world,” The London Times reports. “Organic farming produces yields 20 per cent smaller than conventional crops,” a decades-long survey by an organic research group found. And the differences between organic and biotech are even more profound, environmental consultant Jim Wells writes in The Los Angeles Times. Excerpts from his piece:

“Despite its proponents’ claims, organic agriculture is not capable of supplying our country’s food needs while protecting the environment.”

“One myth is that organic food is more nutritious and better tasting. Researchers at New Zealand’s University of Otago just completed a review of about 100 studies examining those claims and found no convincing evidence to support them.”

“The myths of better nutrition and eating quality pale in comparison to assertions that organic production techniques are a viable means of protecting the environment and supplying the nation’s food supply.”

“Society will need to depend on modern farming practices to produce the additional food needed without plowing billions of acres of wildlife habitat. Only high-yield production agriculture can accomplish that. When it comes to a healthy, plentiful food supply, modern farming technology, not organic trendiness, offers the more realistic solution to feeding a growing world population.”

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