The world of plant biotechnology is buzzing with news that scientists are making progress on a purple genetically modified (GM) tomato containing high levels of cancer-fighting and heart disease-reducing antioxidants. A new GM grass can help farmers stay solvent in droughts and save money on animal feed. And today, researchers in South Dakota announced a special GM soybean that can help prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes — mimicking the effects of tuna, salmon, and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Of course, like most scientific breakthroughs, Americans won’t see any purple pizzas or supercharged tofu immediately. In which case, says anti-GM activist Margaret Mellon of the anti-progress Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), we may as well abandon this scientific inquiry entirely.
Today’s Washington Post drops a new talking point from the anti-biotechnology activist network. And it amounts to little more than a glorified version of, well, impatience. Argues Mellon:
"The big biotech firms always used the promise of consumer-friendly, extra-healthy foods to fend off some of the criticism … It doesn’t look exactly promising that we’ll get any of that kind of benefit anytime soon, if ever. Clearly, genetically engineering fruits and vegetables for nutritional benefits has proven far more difficult than the industry expected."
Can you imagine the outrage if this kind of argument were applied to other avenues of scientific research? Chronic disease prevention, global transportation or communication, or even — gasp! — “green” energy-saving technology like wind or solar power? Clean energy is just taking too darned long. Let’s scrap it.
Even worse is the fact that anti-GM scare tactics (and, in many cases, outright vandalism) are a big reason why these superfoods haven’t arrived on supermarket shelves. How are scientists expected to follow through on new developments when groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Mellon’s own UCS make it their mission to stop any research from taking place?