With an FDA panel holding hearings this week on whether to allow the first genetically modified animal (salmon) on Americans’ plates, “green” scaremongering is once again rearing its science-challenged head. People have been tweaking animal genes for millennia through selective breeding; That's why your pet might be a golden retriever and not a wolf. As one professor of animal science put it, the current cadre of anti-technology scaremongers are akin to those who thought microwaves would blow up pacemakers.
Today former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter explained in the San Jose Mercury News that biotech debates are really about First World special interests opposing advances that could help starving people in poorer countries. He writes:
[M]any areas around the world are experiencing water shortages that could severely reduce their populations' ability to feed themselves — unless drought-resistant crops, together with improved irrigation technologies, allow them to squeeze more crop per drop. Biotech is the key to those developments, too.
We must also ask whether we can deny whole regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the ability to become more self-sufficient in agriculture because of an ideological bias against biotech. Technology isn't the only answer to their needs — but it must be a large part of the answer.
We know from biotech's track record that it is up to the task. Starting from an already-high baseline in the United States, biotech has increased soybean yields by 25 percent and corn by almost 50 percent. It has also made "no till" farming feasible, reducing soil erosion, energy usage and fertilizer runoff. For these reasons alone, environmentalists ought to be fierce advocates of biotechnology.
Sadly, many environmentalists are instead driven by an ideology that sees genetic modifications as an affront to “Gaia.” They rely on unrealistic “what ifs” and an endless supply of suppositions to drum up frightening fantasies. But since an FDA review has already determined that the so-called “Frankenfish” is “as safe to eat as food from other Atlantic salmon,” this is one activist campaign that may be fated to drown.