One of the more unfortunate tendencies on the left is to embrace causes with shaky scientific underpinnings and then to persist in supporting such causes when the science shows the cause is bogus. A great example of this is GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The hysteria against genetically modified crops is ridiculous and utterly without scientific merit. And of course that hysteria slows down the rate at which actual people--many of them quite poor--can benefit from GMO advances.
Don't believe me? I refer you to the recent Saturday essay in the Wall Street Journal by science writer (and former anti-GMO activist) Mark Lynas. Lynas points out:
"The problem isn’t just that almost all of the alarms about GMOs were false. It’s that the anti-GMO campaign has deprived much of the world of a crucial, life-improving technology—and has shown the readiness of many environmentalists to ignore science when it contradicts their prejudices. That’s not the example we need just now as the planet faces the very real threat of climate change.
Contrary to our initial fears, the overall impact of genetically modified crops has been to dramatically reduce the amount and toxicity of pesticides sprayed by farmers. Crops such as Bt corn, so called because it incorporates proteins toxic to insects from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, have enabled farmers to rely less on sprayed insecticides. A meta-analysis, combining the results of nearly 150 peer-reviewed studies, was published in 2014 in the highly regarded journal PLOS One. It concluded that GMO crops used 37% less chemical pesticide (that is, both insecticide and herbicide) than conventional versions of the same crops, thanks largely to the new crops’ internal biological protection against insects....
Perhaps the most egregious and now-exploded myth is that GMO foods are somehow bad for human health. Doctored graphs showing purported correlations between rates of autism and GMO crop adoption, or suggested links between genetic engineering and cancer rates, have become widespread internet memes. A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center found that only 37% of U.S. adults in the general public believe that it is safe to eat genetically modified foods, as compared with 88% of American scientists.
The reason for this gap is clear enough: Anti-GMO activists have peddled a great deal of misinformation to the general public, while the scientific community, in the U.S. and elsewhere, has known for years that there is no basis for the health concerns that have long bedeviled GMOs.
A massive 2016 report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded that “the data do not support the assertion that cancer rates have increased because of consumption of products of [genetically engineered] crops.” Moreover, “patterns of change in cancer incidence in the U.S. are generally similar to those in the United Kingdom and Europe, where diets contain much lower amounts of food derived from [these] crops.” The NAS reached the same conclusion for obesity, diabetes, celiac disease, various allergies and autism, pointing to no evidence of higher rates in countries that use GMOs.
The view that GMO foods have no discernible impact on health is now the well-established consensus across the international scientific community. It includes not just the NAS but the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the U.K.’s Royal Society, the French Academy of Science, the African Academy of Sciences and numerous others.
Even the usually GMO-skeptic European Commission admitted in a 2010 report: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than … conventional plant breeding technologies.”
Particularly striking to me was the strongly worded statement issued in 2012 by the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It declared, “The science is quite clear: Crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.“
So let's get a grip here! Science is our friend; we should welcome technologies that improve millions of lives, not fear them.
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