“The European Union and fellow traveling anti-biotech activists may well succeed in bottling up the next wave of genetically improved crops that aim directly at helping poor farmers in the developing world,” writes Reason magazine science correspondent Ron Bailey. As he explains, this activist-driven fear has created a climate in which “some developing countries are so afraid of the EU’s anti-biotech wrath that they are willing to risk the lives of millions of their hungry by rejecting food aid that contains genetically enhanced crops.”

Citing advances that could fight blindness in a half-million of the world’s poor each year, the creation of disease-resistant fruit, and the prevention of “commercial extinction” for bananas, Bailey notes the enormous potential benefits developing countries will miss if they bow to activist fear-mongering:

Anti-biotech European regulations are spooking the governments of poor countries into preventing their farmers from growing the new genetically enhanced crops. And that’s a shame, because researchers in laboratories and plant breeding stations around the world are endowing new biotech crop varieties with traits like disease resistance and improved nutritional value.

Part of the problem in Europe, Bailey writes, is that the constituency for anti-biotech groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth is “not poor African and Asian farmers and their families, but affluent and easily frightened European consumers.” And as Bailey points out, this bias leads to some appalling logic:

Activists usually blame the inaction of rich countries for killing people in poor countries. However, instead of outrage here, we get Greenpeace geneticist Doreen Stabinsky primly quipping in the [St. Louis] Post-Dispatch, “Hunger is not solved by producing more food. We’re the breadbasket of the world, and we have hungry people in the U.S.” Hunger may not be solved by producing more food, but it sure couldn’t hurt.