What are anti-biotech-food activists to do when confronted with the facts? Close their eyes, cover their ears, and scream bloody murder, of course. Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore encountered such a temper tantrum coming from his former compadres before a scheduled speech in Paris. Moore details his experience in the March issue of The American Enterprise:
On October 15, 2001 I found myself sitting in my office in Vancouver after Greenpeace activists in Paris successfully prevented me from speaking via videoconference to 400 delegates of the European Seed Association. The Greenpeacers chained themselves to the seats in the Cine Cite Bercy auditorium and threatened to shout down the speakers. The venue was hastily shifted elsewhere, but the videoconferencing equipment couldn’t be set up at the new location, leading to the cancellation of my keynote presentation.
The issue, in this case, was the application of biotechnology to agriculture and genetic modification. The conference in Paris was a meeting of delegates from seed companies, biotechnology companies, and government agencies involved in regulation throughout Europe. Surely these are topics covered by the rules of free speech.
Had those rules not been violated, I would have told the assembled that the accusations of “Frankenstein food” and “killer tomatoes” are as much a fantasy as the Hollywood movies they are borrowed from. I would have argued that, if adding a daffodil gene to rice in order to produce a genetically modified strain of rice can prevent half a million children from going blind each year, then we should move forward carefully to develop it. I would have told them that Greenpeace policy on genetics lacks any respect for logic or science.
In 2001, the European Commission released the results of 81 scientific studies on genetically modified organisms conducted by over 400 research teams at a cost of U.S. $65 million. The studies, which covered all areas of concern, have “not shown any new risks to human health or the environment, beyond the usual uncertainties of conventional plant breeding. Indeed, the use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants and foods.” Clearly my former Greenpeace colleagues are either not reading the morning paper or simply don’t care about the truth. And they choose to silence by force those of us who do care about it.
Greenpeace activists don’t reserve their obstructionism for speakers of biotech truth. They’ve also worked to prevent starving Africans from receiving biotech food aid. The group’s blind rage against genetically engineered crops has real consequences. Moore laments:
What is the risk of allowing this humanitarian intervention to be planted? What possible risk could there be from a daffodil gene in a rice paddy? Yet Greenpeace activists threaten to rip the G.M. rice out of the fields if farmers dare to plant it. … Surely if reasonable people saw the choice between the risk of a daffodil gene in a rice plant versus the certainty of millions of blind children, they would descend on Greenpeace offices around the world and demand to have their money back. How is it that these charlatans continue to stymie progress on so many fronts when their arguments are nothing more than wild, scary speculation?
As Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug warns, Greenpeace’s actions threaten the health and sustainability of the world: “I now say that the world has the technology — either available or well-advanced in the research pipeline — to feed a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use this new technology. Extremists in the environmental movement from the rich nations seem to be doing everything they can to stop scientific progress in its tracks.“