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The Latest Anti-Science ‘Smokescreen’

The largest scientific test of genetically improved food crops the world has ever seen is over. The results aren’t due until the fall, but that hasn’t stopped anti-biotech activists at Friends of the Earth (FoE) from staging a preemptive attack.

FoE issued a 48-page research paper last week arguing that governments simply must demonstrate biotech food safety to activists’ satisfaction. Apparently the satisfaction of the world’s best scientific minds isn’t enough.

FoE wants a moratorium on genetically improved crops. At least until the powers that be prove to them — at some unspecified time in the future when the technology has evolved sufficiently and a test case will somehow be a perfect model for the real world — that biotech crops are 100 percent safe and foolproof. That cannot be done.

And that’s precisely the point. FoE’s report embraces the “precautionary principle,” which the Wall Street Journal called “an environmentalist neologism, invoked to trump scientific evidence and move directly to banning things they don’t like.” Martin Teitel, the former executive director of the misnamed activist group, Council for Responsible Genetics, admitted as much in 2001. “Politically,” Teitel said, “it’s difficult for me to go around saying that I want to shut this science down, so it’s safer for me to say something like, ‘It needs to be done safely before releasing it.'” Requiring scientists to satisfy the Principle by proving a negative, Teitel added, means that “they don’t get to do it period.”

Even if the government could somehow overcome these impossible demands, FoE has the gall to insist that government’s mere involvement in the science inherently skews — and therefore disqualifies — any and all biotech studies. “The remit [the testers] were given by the government,” FoE asserts, “meant they were tied to a research programme that was politically motivated.”

FoE’s report is entitled “Science as a Smokescreen?” — and that’s exactly what their work amounts to. It’s 48 pages of nonsense (in the manicured language of science) intended to cloud their real intent: to stop biotech crops by any means necessary, regardless of what science has to say. The American Medical Association described this kind of behavior well when it said: “Opponents of GM food understand that diminished understanding and lack of knowledge is the key to obstructing biotechnology.”

FoE revealed its true colors by protesting at the trial of two hooligans who damaged genetically improved crops in Wales. The defendants and FoE insist they were acting in the public interest by pulling up the crops even though one person was injured.

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