French activist-turned-farmer-turned-activist Jose Bove got a ticket back to prison yesterday for his role in destroying a field of corn. The corn’s “problem”? It was genetically enhanced to increase its yield. This crop-smashing incident is hardly Bove’s first. He has a long record of destruction. His previous victims have included a rice field and a French McDonald’s franchise (perhaps he didn’t like the Royale with Cheese).
The man whose crop science helped feed billions, Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug, warned about Bove’s brand of anti-science activism in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed co-authored with former President and fellow Nobel laureate Jimmy Carter. They wrote:
[A]gricultural science is increasingly under attack by groups and individuals who, for political rather than scientific reasons, are campaigning to limit advances, especially in new fields such as genetic modification (GM) through biotechnology.
Most French consumers can afford to deny GM food a fair hearing. The problem is with developing nations in Africa and elsewhere, for whose peoples the choice can be between eating GM foods and eating nothing at all. Genetically modified crops can grow in marginally arable lands and produce more food on less acreage. But European pressure and intimidation, including scaremongering by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and similar groups, often prevents African countries, especially, from taking advantage of GM foods. In a March 2003 speech to the Congressional Economic Leadership Institute, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley gave a powerful example:
Zambia refuses any shipments of U.S. food aid that consists of biotech products even though its population is on the brink of starvation … some EU member states have warned that their relations with poorer countries — including those in Africa — could be harmed if those countries accept U.S. biotech food aid.
It is for this reason that Kenyan plant pathologist Florence Wambugu has condemned the likes of Bove, “who would deny developing countries like my home, Kenya, the resources to develop a technology that can help alleviate hunger, malnutrition and poverty.“
Jose Bove’s message to the world’s hungry? C’est la vie. Our response? Bon voyage.