American Enterprise Institute  [Printer-friendly version]
December 19, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: In this anonymous book review, the American
Enterprise Institute claims that the third world is being deprived
of the benefits of genetically modified crops because of the
precautionary principle. We have added links to offer alternative
viewpoints on some of the issues raised here. The real food problem
in the third world is that millions of people are too poor to pay
for food that is already available. Genetically engineered crops
won't solve that problem.]

Book review of: Jon Entine, Let Them Eat Precaution: How Politics Is
Undermining the Genetic Revolution in Agriculture (Washington, D.C.:
American Enterprise Institute, 2006). $25

More than one million of the world's poorest children die each year
from a lack of Vitamin A. Another 100 million children suffer from
Vitamin A deficiency, which increases the risk of blindness,
infections, and diseases such as measles and malaria. Yet a
revolutionary solution to this malignant crisis--a vitamin-enhanced
rice--remains unutilized, the victim of anti-science advocacy groups.

The sad fate of Golden Rice, the genetically modified version of the
world's most popular staple, is one of many revelations in Let Them
Eat Precaution: How Politics Is Undermining the Genetic Revolution in
Agriculture (AEI Press, January 2006). Bioengineering has created
new kinds of soybeans, wheat, and cotton that generate natural
insecticides (making them more resistant to pests and drought and
increasing yields); nutrition-added fruits, vegetables, and grains;
and futuristic "farmaceuticals"--life-saving medicines made by
melding agricultural methods with advanced biotechnology. Countless
scientific studies have found that biotech farming can dramatically
reduce reliance on costly and environmentally harmful chemicals, and
the products that result are safe and healthy.

Editor Jon Entine, along with ten experts from the United States and
Great Britain, explain why cultural politics and trade disputes, not
science, pose the biggest hurdles in developing these products.

Instead of meeting the desperate needs of the world's poor with new
medicines and vitamin-fortified crops, anti-biotech campaigners offer
liberal doses of the "precautionary principle"--the controversial
notion that innovation should be shelved unless all risks can be
avoided. Well-funded environmental groups such as Greenpeace and
Friends of the Earth; organic advocates; religious groups such as
Christian Aid; and "socially responsible" investors exploit anxiety
about science, caricaturing genetic technology as inherently
unpredictable and a "genetic Godzilla" that could usher in an age of

Among the other findings in Let Them Eat Precaution:

** Some 40,000 people--half of them children--die every day from
hunger or malnutrition-related causes that genetically modified
products could alleviate.

** International advocacy groups have intimidated the Zambian and
Zimbabwean governments into rejecting donations of bioengineered grain
that would have helped feed the 10.1 million undernourished people in
those two countries.

** Biopharmaceuticals such as potatoes transformed into edible
vaccines against diarrhea--a leading cause of death in the developing
world-- and tobacco modified to fight dental cavities, the common
cold, and diabetes are caught in a regulatory jungle.

** Anti-biotechnology groups funded by tax-exempt foundations, the
social investment community, and the organic and natural products
industry masterfully exploit the Internet to spread their message.

** The misinformation campaign has turned one of the founders of
Greenpeace into a determined spokesperson for the promise of biotech
farming and farmaceuticals.

The anti-biotech industry's admonition of "Don't tamper with nature"
may be superficially seductive, but a blanket rule that nature's
course is always preferable to scientific innovation is a prescription
for paralysis. The authors of Let Them Eat Precaution believe that
proponents of biotechnology must reorient their strategy to address
the political, social, moral, and economic arguments raised by biotech
opponents, rather than relying simply on the scientific evidence.
While not a universal panacea, genetically modified technology offers
a unique opportunity to address international health and nutrition
needs, especially in countries with increasing populations, widespread
poverty, and limited funds for expensive and environmentally harmful
chemical pesticides.

Let Them Eat Precaution includes:

** "Beyond Precaution" by Jon Entine, scholar in residence at Miami
University of Ohio, and adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise

** "Global Views on Agricultural Biotechnology" by Thomas Jefferson
Hoban, director of the Center for Biotechnology in a Global Society
and professor in the departments of sociology, anthropology, and food
science at North Carolina State University. Mr. Hoban is also a member
of the Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology at the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA).

** "Agricultural Biotechnology Caught in a War of Giants" by C.S.
Prakash, professor of plant biotechnology at Tuskegee University and
president of AgBio World Foundation; and by Gregory Conko, senior
fellow and director of food safety policy at the Competitive
Enterprise Institute.

** "Trade War or Culture War? The GM Debate in Britain and the
European Union" by Tony Gilland, science and society director at the
British Institute of Ideas.

** "Hunger, Famine, and the Promise of Biotechnology" by Andrew S.
Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID).

** "Let Them Eat Precaution: Why GM Crops Are Being Over-Regulated in
the Developing World" by Robert L. Paarlberg, professor of political
science at Wellesley College; associate of the Center for
International Affairs at Harvard University; and consultant for the
International Food Policy Research Institute, USAID, USDA, and U.S.
State Department.

** "Can Public Support for the Use of Biotechnology in Food Be
Salvaged?" by Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Food Policy
Institute at the Consumer Federation of America and former assistant
secretary for food and consumer services at the USDA.

** "Deconstructing the Agricultural Biotechnology Protest Industry" by
Jay Byrne, president of v-Fluence Interactive Public Relations
(dealing with issues management, including biotechnology).

** "'Functional Foods' and Biopharmaceuticals: The Next Generation of
the GM Revolution" by Martina Newell-McGloughlin, director of the
Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Education Program at the
University of California-Davis; co-director of the NIH Training
Program in Biomolecular Technology; member of the Genomics Panel on
Technology of the WTO; and member of the Technology Discussion Panel
on Sustainable Agriculture at the UN.

** "Challenging the Misinformation Campaign of Antibiotechnology
Environmentalists" by Patrick Moore, founding member of Greenpeace
and former director of Greenpeace International. Mr. Moore now heads
the environmental group Greenspirit in Vancouver, Canada.

Media Inquiries:
Veronique Rodman
American Enterprise Institute
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Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-862-4871
Fax: 202-862-7171

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