Once again, the teachers at school are propagandizing against GMO's. I just knocked out this e-mail in response. Note, this needed to be sent to our 6th grader's science teacher. I would have hoped she'd know better:


The one-sided discussion of GMO crops, always taking the negative position, frustrates and angers me. This is why (all bolds and italics are mine):

Golden Rice is being developed by a nonprofit group called the International Rice Research Institute with the aim of providing a new source of vitamin A to people both in the Philippines, where most households get most of their calories from rice, and eventually in many other places in a world where rice is eaten every day by half the population. Lack of the vital nutrient causes blindness in a quarter-million to a half-million children each year. It affects millions of people in Asia and Africa and so weakens the immune system that some two million die each year of diseases they would otherwise survive. [ Amy Harmon, New York Times, "Golden Rice: Lifesaver?" ]

TWO MILLION DIE!! And another quarter to half a million children go blind because people living in the developed world, in air conditioning, with well stocked refrigerators and pantries, and where the biggest problem related to food is obesity, sit around and decide that their knee-jerk feelings about something count more that the lives of the poor, malnourished, sick and starving of the world.

On a petition supporting Golden Rice circulated among scientists and signed by several thousand, many vented a simmering frustration with activist organizations like Greenpeace, which they see as playing on misplaced fears of genetic engineering in both the developing and the developed worlds....

At stake, they say, is not just the future of biofortified rice but also a rational means to evaluate a technology whose potential to improve nutrition in developing countries, and developed ones, may otherwise go unrealized.

There’s so much misinformation floating around about G.M.O.’s that is taken as fact by people,” said Michael D. Purugganan, a professor of genomics and biology and the dean for science at New York University, who sought to calm health-risk concerns in a primer on GMA News Online, a media outlet in the Philippines: “The genes they inserted to make the vitamin are not some weird manufactured material,” he wrote, “but are also found in squash, carrots and melons.”

Mr. Purugganan, who studies plant evolution, does not work on genetically engineered crops, and until recently had not participated in the public debates over the risks and benefits of G.M.O.’s. But having been raised in a middle-class family in Manila, he felt compelled to weigh in on Golden Rice. “A lot of the criticism of G.M.O.’s in the Western world suffers from a lack of understanding of how really dire the situation is in developing countries,” he said. [ from same NYT's article]


And not just Golden Rice:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is supporting the final testing of Golden Rice, is also underwriting the development of crops tailored for sub-Saharan Africa, like cassava that can resist the viruses that routinely wipe out a third of the harvest, bananas that contain higher levels of iron and corn that uses nitrogen more efficiently. Other groups are developing a pest-resistant black-eyed pea and a “Golden Banana” that would also deliver vitamin A. [ibid]

The EU has been no friend of GMO's, yet here are excerpts from an EU funded study of 10 years worth research:

[ Excerpts from "A Decade of EU-funded GMO Research", Introduction by: Marc Van Montagu, Chairman, Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries (IPBO,) Ghent University, Belgium ]:

Undeniably GM technology is an important tool in the fight against global poverty and food insecurity. Farmers all over the world face the challenge of doubling food production to meet the needs of a population that is expected to reach nine billion by mid-century – and all this while maintaining soil and water quality and conserving biodiversity.

The challenge is particularly daunting as it has to be accomplished with decreasing amounts of agricultural land and the unpredictable effects of climate change: mitigation and crop adaptation strategies to prepare today’s agriculture for climate change are a pressing issue. Our evolving environment requires the prompt and widespread adoption of more efficient and sustainable agricultural practices to improve food security and, at the same time, reduce the negative effects of intensive agriculture.

The task of enhancing productivity calls for greater innovation, not only in the dissemination of know-how and the development of infrastructure, but also in generating new crop varieties better adapted to specific local environments. Yet the possibilities offered by biotechnology are limitless. GM crops not only have the potential to ensure sufficient availability of food, they can also help domesticate many fast-growing high-biomass crops. [page 20]

Now, after 25 years of field trials without evidence of harm, fears continue to trigger the Precautionary Principle. But Europeans [and Americans--Ann] need to abandon this knowingly one-sided stance and strike a balance between the advantages and disadvantages of the technology on the basis of scientifically sound risk assessment analysis. [ Page 22 ]

Only science, using robust data, can disarm the detractors of this powerful and invaluable technology, demonstrating that GM crops are no more harmful for the environment than any other crop. On the contrary, there are clear ecological benefits when viewed within the framework of the role of agricultural systems in maintaining biodiversity.

The current focus on assessing the environmental risks of GMOs in isolation from other agricultural practices defies logic. Only balanced risk-benefit analyses and pro-active strategies for risk mitigation, if required, can lead to constructive decision-making. [Page 23.]

This from the abstract of another 10 year meta-study: "The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of GE crops."

GMO's offer the hope of growing more food on less land, in lower-quality soils, with more nutritious content, and with less use of polluting pesticides and fertilizers, and while preserving biodiversity. Decades of research--SCIENCE--says that they are not or need not be a hazard.

Luddite opponents need to answer the desperate calls of the poverty-stricken of the world.