Filed Under: The Green Fringe

Divide Grows Between Biotech Reality and Activist Rhetoric

David Blaine’s got nothing on the minions of the anti-biotech movement. If you want to see a truly stupendous exercise in smoke-and-mirrors and misdirection, look no further than people like Jose Bové and Ségolène Royal, or groups like Greenpeace — they’ve practically cornered the market on rhetorical tricks and red herrings. Of course, that’s almost understandable since everything mainstream science has to say about their most popular punching bag, genetically modified foods (GMOs), directly contradicts their doom-and-gloom predictions.

Witness the case of Claude Menara, a French farmer who recently started harvesting transgenic corn. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the patented seed has saved Menara about $38 per acre in pesticide bills — which would translate into nearly $4,000 in savings for the average French farmer:

On a recent morning, he shows off an ear of genetically modified corn, full and yellow, alongside an unaltered ear that was withered and ruined. Transgenic corn has added genes, which produce a protein that makes the borer’s stomach explode. Cracking open the stalk of the non-GM ear revealed a squad of pink worms.

In an industry seeing increased consolidation and decreased government support, even a small financial boost can mean the difference between success and bankruptcy for farmers like Menara. But that hasn’t stopped anti-biotech activists from doing their best to keep France GMO-free. Greenpeace — the godfather of the anti-GMO cabal — has sent 1,500 “detectives” across France to “out” farmers who use genetically modified seeds. Its disciples then publish the locations of the “guilty” farms and plan obnoxious rallies to voice their scientifically challenged concerns.

One French presidential hopeful — Ségolène Royal, a lock to win the Socialist Party nomination — has called for a ban on planting GMOs. And neo-Luddite activist extraordinaire Jose Bové has launched a nationwide campaign of GMO-crop destruction. Bove recently visited Menara’s farm and directed his activist acolytes to trample nearly 30 acres of corn. Menara doesn’t mince words when it comes to Bove’s group, three of whom were arrested and face jail time for vandalism: “They are thugs.”

Stateside, this particular brand of organized thuggery has yet to catch on, and U.S. farmers are freely planting biotech crops to cut costs on everything from irrigation to pesticides. But activist successes across the Atlantic will doubtlessly embolden domestic detractors — including former presidential hopeful Carol Moseley Braun, who recently denounced “Frankenfoods” at an University of Evansville conference. And who knows what sort of roadblocks — legal or otherwise — the likes of the Organic Consumers Association, Friends of the Earth, The Center for Food Safety, and Greenpeace will throw up to obstruct what any sensible person would see as a godsend.

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