NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Genetically-Modified Foods Mired in False Controversy

February 27, 2004

Although genetically-modified foods could be used to fight malnutrition and improve lower yields in undeveloped countries, many environmentalists oppose their research, development and use, says the American Enterprise Institute.

G.M. technology is used in a variety of crops and has produced innovations, including:

  • Insect- and drought-resistant soybeans, wheat and cotton, reduce the need for pesticides and costly irrigation, and they increase yields.
  • The daffodil gene can increase the amount of Vitamin A in rice, preventing blindness in nearly half a million children in developing countries each year.

Proponents insist there is no evidence that G.M. foods are harmful:

  • Gene-splicing and hybridization have been used for years, resulting in foods such as seedless grapes and tangelos.
  • Protein supplements given to cows over the past decade, have increased their milk yields without changing the milk itself..

Anti-biotech groups have now turned to requiring a "precautionary principle" for use of G.M. foods, including mandatory labeling. Such labeling, however, would likely feed on the fears of those wary of science and result in a stigmatization of such products. Michael Passoff of the group As You Sow, admits their goal in requiring labeling is to spook companies from carrying G.M. foods at all for fear of alienating customers.

Meanwhile, anti-G.M. activists have scared Zambia into refusing G.M. grain that could feed their population.

John Entine of the American Enterprise Institute agrees that there are issues over G.M. foods that need to be addressed, such as how much control G.M. companies should have over patents. What is lacking, he says, is a public discussion about the existing and potential benefits of biotechnology.

Source: John Entine, "Let Them Eat Precaution," American Enterprise Institute, March 2004.


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