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NY Times’ Jane Brody: Benefits Of Biotech Crops

Today, The New York Times’ Jane Brody — whose three decades of work has made her among the nation’s most trusted health writers — used her weekly column to lambaste the technophobic scaremongers trying to terrify us about genetically enhanced (GE) food. “Alarmist warnings about the possible hazards of gene splicing,” Brody cautions, “have made the public extremely wary of this selective form of genetic modification. Such warnings have so far been groundless.” Of course, that doesn’t stop activists from Greenpeace, the Organic Consumers Association and elsewhere from spreading false fears about biotechnology.

Brody explains that very little actually separates GE food from the organic products so often recommended — not to mention marketed — by biotech foes. As Brody explains, we’ve been genetically modifying food for 10,000 years through cross pollination and other techniques. The only difference is that modern science has created a more precise process. Brody ultimately asks: “Why should people object to the presence of a single new gene whose function is known when for centuries they have accepted foods containing hundreds of new genes of unknown function?”

With so much science supporting the cultivation and consumption of GE food, Brody explains that it’s sheer ignorance which has made many Americans leery of the technology. According to the United States Ambassador to the Vatican, Jim Nicholson, much of the ignorance surrounding GE foods is due to:

[M]isinformation sown by ideologically motivated groups … Activists even convinced African governments facing drought-induced famine in late 2002 to return tons of World Food Program corn because it was produced in America using biotechnology. Better to die than eat the food that Americans eat every day.

And Brody laments that ignorance about biotechnology could do substantial damage:

Without better public understanding and changes in the many arcane rules now thwarting development of new gene-spliced products, we will miss out on major improvements that can result in more healthful foods, a cleaner environment and a worldwide ability to produce more food on less land — using less water, fewer chemicals and less money.

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