Washington Times
February 19, 2006


By Gilbert Ross

[RPR introduction -- This op-ed originally appeared in the Washington
Times, the ultra-right-wing newpaper in the nation's capital owned by
the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.  The Reverend
Mr. Moon funds the so-called "conservative" political movement in the
U.S. that aims to return the U.S. to the social conditions that
existed before 1900 -- the era of the Robber Barons.  Genetically
modified foods are important in this "conservative" plan because,
properly marketed, genetically modified crops can make farmers world-
wide dependent upon a few U.S. corporations that sell patented seeds.
This would bring much of the world's food supply under U.S. control.
For a longer discussion of this point, see Rachel's #639.

In Mr. Ross's op-ed, we encounter the often-repeated, false claim that
the precautionary principle is causing starvation is Asia and Africa
by denying farmers the benefits of genetically-engineered foods. This
argument is entirely bogus -- the world already produces plenty of
food to feed everyone. The problem is that many people in Asia and
Africa are too poor to pay for food, so they go hungry. Genetically
modified foods cannot solve this problem, though they might make it

A commission of the World Trade Organization has held the European
Union's 1998-2004 moratorium on planting and importing genetically-
modified food and cotton was not based on science. Hooray.

Or "duh," as my kids would say. The U.S. has utilized GM crops since
1996, with millions of acres planted and millions of tons of GM crops
harvested and consumed since then -- with no adverse effect seen on
health or the environment.

But while that seems pretty powerful evidence of safety, it hasn't
been enough for those intrepid devotees of the precautionary principle
across the pond. This principle states that unless a product or
chemical is shown "safe" (by often scientifically baseless
definitions), it should be banned or restricted until such evidence of
its safety has been obtained.

The WTO panel found the EU ban was based on old-fashioned trade
competition and politics, not science. Score one point for the forces
of agro-science, and score several more points for the malnourished
people of Asia and Africa.

The real victims of environmental activists and prosperous European
farmers, fattened on subsidies, have been (as usual) the poor of the
developing world. Are the fattened First-World naysayers really
fearful of the alleged health effects of GM agriculture, or is their
antipathy based mainly on their own economic self-interest? They don't
care, it's the same to them either way: They've kept Yankee gene-
spliced food out of Europe and reaped (sorry) economic benefits, while
telling the public they're protecting everyone from "Frankenfood."
Unfortunately, this agenda denies African and Asian subsistence
farmers equal access to these new technologies -- which are proven to
increase crop yields and ward off starvation. These technologies can
directly enhance nutrition (for instance through "golden rice," GM
rice engineered to increase vitamin A intake for the billion or so
people who subsist on rice). And this is but a foretaste of a brighter

Best of all, GM agriculture reduces the need for pesticide inputs, an
issue allegedly near and dear to the hearts of the activists whose
mantra is "organic, now and forever."

So why do the so-called "environmentalists" oppose GM food for the
starving billions? Who really knows? Their opposition is certainly not
based on any real health threats.

And now even the WTO has pulled down the curtain and exposed the EU
wizards for the charlatans they are. Their technophobic, neo-Luddite
discrimination has thwarted African health and agriculture officials
who desperately want GM seed but legitimately fear trade embargoes if
they use them.

This is analogous to the pesticide DDT, banned due to superstition and
anti-science agendas only after insect-borne plagues were eradicated
from North American and Europe. Malaria continued ravaging the African
south until today, and the ban remains. Similarly, the de facto ban on
GM food will likely go on despite the WTO ruling (which won't even be
final for some months, and is then subject to appeal and even

Why do we allow a small number of junk-science devotees and trade-
barrier-supporters to dictate public health policy to the rest of the
world, at a cost of millions of lives?

Ingo Potrykus, inventor of golden rice, recently said: "Blanket
opposition to all GM foods is a luxury that only pampered Westerners
can afford."

Gilbert Ross, M.D., is executive and medical director of the American
Council on Science and Health.

Copyright 1999 -- 2006 News World Communications, Inc.