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Learning to Love Biotech Foods

A 19th Century Austrian prince once said: “When France sneezes, Europe catches a cold.” Normally we’d like to see France holding a few dozen handkerchiefs to its nose, but yesterday the French Academy of Medicine urged fellow Europeans to embrace genetically improved food crops. This time, let’s hope the rest of Europe catches on — especially since no one has suffered so much as a sniffle from eating biotech food. This echoes a document issued jointly by seven nations’ National Academies of Science. They declared in 2000 that biotechnology “provides the developing world with some important new tools for feeding and caring for its people,” but also warned that activist backlash “will completely overshadow all the promise that the technology offers.”

Common sense and sound science have gained tremendous ground lately. Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore now supports genetic food improvement and derides its detractors as “anti-human.” Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, whose “Green Revolution” efforts are credited with saving over a billion people from starvation, says of anti-biotech activists: “These people have never been around hungry people.” And Kenya’s Florence Wambugu, who knew starvation firsthand as a child, has become a leading advocate of bringing biotech foods to Africa. “We’re dying,” says the award-winning research scientist.

They’re certainly dying in Zambia. Nearly 3 million people are facing starvation there, and yet the United Nations is in the process of removing maize from warehouses in the hungry African nation. Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa continues to insist that his people would prefer starvation to U.S.-grown genetically enhanced foods. That scientifically illiterate position eventually might land Mwanawasa in a Western jail. The United States Ambassador to the U.N. recently declared that “people that deny food to their people, that are in fact starving people to death should be held responsible…for the highest crimes against humanity in the highest courts in the world.”

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