GM crops

GM: Green lobby has no right to impose its Luddite fears

South Africa’s official position on bio-technology is fairly tolerant of GM crops, with their distinguished record of increasing food security. But environmental lobby groups bang on about unfounded fears and demand mandatory measures to protect the public from a non-existent danger. Worse, they’re making inroads.

Many environmental lobby groups are on the wrong side of the struggle to feed the world’s poor. Pressure groups such as BioWatch South Africa, SAFeAGE and the African Centre for Biosafety consistently oppose the introduction of genetically modified (GM) agricultural crops on the grounds that they might harm the environment, human health, or both.

Their arguments are very flimsy. Proving the safety of biotechnology is, of course, logically impossible. One cannot prove that negative effects will never occur – only that they have not occurred in the past and are unlikely to do so in future. This standard, the highest that is possible in the real world, has been met. The onus ought to be on opponents of biotechnology to prove its dangers.

Environmental groups set impossibly high standards for others because they can’t present any evidence of their own. This only inflames unfounded opposition among the lay public, opposition which amounts to ignorant fear of the unknown and wrong-headed application of the precautionary principle. The fear is naïve and simple-minded, and ought to be classed with fears about witchcraft or distrust of newfangled machines like automobiles and mobile phones.

The precautionary principle is a self-contradictory argument which logically precludes its own application. One can never be entirely certain that using a new technology entails no risk, but against this slim chance of harm one has to weigh the certain costs and risks of rejecting the technology.

While the safety arguments against GM crops are speculative and baseless, the benefits are significant and proven. A recent report by PG Economics surveying the impact of GM crops on the environment and the economies of countries that allow them, finds widespread and consistent gains.

“Over the 15-year period covered in the report, crop biotechnology has consistently provided important economic and production gains, improved incomes and reduced risk for farmers around the world that have grown GM crops,” said Graham Brookes, a director of PG Economics and co-author of the report…..

Daily Maverick: Read the full article [great piece by Ivo Vegter]