Last week the World Trade Organization ruled against the European Union’s (EU) ban on genetically modified food (GM food, or GMOs). Friday’s editorial in The Wall Street Journal says it all:
All one needs to know is that Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are howling that an “undemocratic” body is trying to “force-feed markets with GMOs.” Expanding consumer choice and free trade equals force-feeding? Sounds like the good guys won.
Perhaps the most disingenuous claim about GM foods is that they are unhealthy. The funny thing, the Journal points out, is that:
In reality, farmers have been genetically modifying crops for millennia through hybridization. Early cultivators favored the seeds of plants that were sturdiest and produced the largest yields. Gene splicing is no different, except that it is quicker and more versatile and offers permanent, reproducible crop varieties. Humans have consumed “new” GM foods for a decade now with no discernible ill effects.
But the EU denying Western farmers the opportunity to export their crops to European consumers isn’t the worst thing about the ban, the Journal continues:
More sinister is the effect European GMO policies have on the world’s poorest farmers. African countries receive preferential access to European farm markets and have been reluctant to introduce GM crops at home. The concern is cross-pollination because the EU has zero tolerance for GM traces in non-GM imports. As a result, gene-altered seed stocks that better resist disease and severe climate conditions — which would provide more food and export income for the people who need them most — remain out of reach in many developing countries.
What’s most shameless about the EU’s ban is what they’re really protecting: naked greed. As the Journal puts it:
Of course, this dispute was never really about science and health. Politicians trip over themselves to oppose goods “unsafe” in the public imagination. But they also know that Europe’s farmers will find it harder to compete in a world market full of cheaper, healthier GM products.