NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 26, 2004

Although some 842 million people -- 13 percent of the world's population -- don't have enough to eat, there is a reliable, cheap food supply for all who are hungry, says USA Today. But fearful environmentalists and their political allies call the solution ''Frankenfood,'' crops genetically altered to resist disease, pests and drought, or food staples engineered to add nutrients.

The biggest hurdle is the lack of acceptance because of opponents' scare tactics or unfounded fears, says USA Today:

  • In the midst of a famine that killed millions, Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2002 turned away corn donated by the United Nations because some contained bioengineered
  • seeds.
  • Zambia, whose president called the crops ''poison,'' still bans biotech foods.
  • Sudan, Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe will accept only milled products that can't be planted and intermingled with native crops.

Meanwhile, among the developed nations:

  • The 25-nation European Union last week ended a six-year moratorium against biotech food by allowing imports of one strain of processed sweet corn that can't be planted; virtually all other biotech foods are still banned.
  • Agricultural giant Monsanto shelved plans on May 10 to introduce the world's first genetically engineered wheat, bowing to the worries of U.S. and Canadian farmers that Europe and Japan would reject all North American wheat imports.
Critics say biotech foods could spread allergens and toxins, and little is known about long-term safety issues. Fanatical opponents vow to destroy fields where the crops are grown and shut down a biotech conference in San Francisco in June.

Biotech food isn't a panacea, and its use need not race ahead of reasonable safety testing. But it could significantly improve the lives of billions. Groundless fears shouldn't be allowed to stand in the way, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, "Feed starving masses, not irrational fears," USA Today, May 26, 2004.

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