Biotechnology on the Ballot: Scaremongering vs. Progress

Farmer Gene

Microbiologist and science writer Alex Berezow writes for the Wall Street Journal that Prop 37 is a “scaremongering California initiative” that would be “another green blow to progress.” 

Berezow is quick to point out the many benefits of biotechnology (ringspot-resistant  papayas; high-yielding cotton crops; food crops that fight pests without insecticide; “Arctic apples,” which don’t turn brown after they are sliced; drought-resistant corn) and biotech’s promises that are currently waiting in the technology pipeline (a GMO cow that produces low-allergy milk; “Golden rice” containing more beta-carotene as a source of vitamin A; disease-resistant bananas; plants that are more proficient at sequestering carbon dioxide; malaria-resistant mosquitoes; bacteria that produce biofuel; and plants that synthesize edible vaccines).

Truly, the innovations of biotechnology appear to be limited only by our imagination. Yet strong opposition exists to this revolutionary technology. Anti-biotechnology groups frequently mislead the public about GMOs by playing down the known benefits while overhyping small, theoretical risks.

The result is that biotechnology is being held back by a scaremongering group of environmentalists who seem to think that saving the planet requires banning science and thwarting human progress.

In November, California will vote on Proposition 37, a referendum that would require food labels for GMOs. The Yes campaign is based on misinformation and fear.

Humans have been genetically modifying food for millennia via artificial selection. Biotechnology simply opens new opportunities and allows the modification to occur quickly and far more accurately.

The American Medical Association recently declared that “there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.” Many other organizations recognize the benefits of GMOs, ranging from the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization to the USDA and FDA.

There’s a reason that respected scientists, medical doctors and government officials embrace GMOs: They understand the technology and its potential for revolutionary change. For a world population that will hit nine billion people by 2050, we need every tool in the arsenal to keep improving agricultural production and bring the developing world out of poverty.  Embracing GMOs is not only pro-science. It is also pro-humanity.

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3 Responses to Biotechnology on the Ballot: Scaremongering vs. Progress

  1. Suhanani says:

    it is important to educate people all over the world about the importance of biotechnology so that no one will oppose the idea to develop this technology.

  2. Huib de Vriend says:

    If the benefits of GMOs are so overwhelming, then why not label them?
    Labelling is about providing information to consumers about something they may want to know about. Indeed, this is not a scientific justification, it’s a social and cultural justification.
    I wonder what is worse: taking the ‘risk’ that opponents abuse labels for scare mongering or denying consumers access to information about the way their foods are produced.

  3. PSH says:

    Huib: Why label the foods if they pose no risk? There is all sorts of information that could be put on food labels, that isn’t because it is not relevant. It is up to proponents to explain why this information is so relevant that it there must be a legal requirement to put it on the label.

    Of course, proponents can not do that. There is no scientific reason to believe that GMO foods as a class are dangerous or unhealthful. But proponents of 37 are not motivated by science; they have this fixation on things being “natural” — that is an ideology not science. They then use scaremongering (e.g. “Frankenfoods”) to make people think there is real problem when there is really just an ideological attack.

    Proponents want the labeling so that they can demonize the foods and target those who sell them. They and their trial lawyer allies expect to use this proposition to drive out GMO foods — even if those foods could be beneficial. Why should anyone want to support them in that effort?

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