NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some Consumer Activists Have Kind Words For Biotechnology

January 25, 2001

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is an advocacy group that has supported nutrition labeling and damned olestra and sulfites. But its executive director, Michael F. Jacobson, writes that the organization has not joined the campaign against agricultural biotechnology and genetically engineered foods.

In fact, he has some interesting things to say about this emerging scientific discipline:

  • While biotechnology is not a panacea for every nutritional and agricultural problem, it is a powerful tool to increase food production, protect the environment, improve the healthfulness of foods and produce valuable pharmaceuticals.
  • While current biotech crops have not been shown to cause any health problem and only minor environmental disturbances, they have begun to yield major benefits -- in cotton, soybeans, sweet potatoes, rice and corn.
  • But used injudiciously, biotechnology could wreck havoc -- such as weeds resistant to herbicides, novel toxins or allergens in foods, pesticide-bearing crops that kill beneficial insects, and loss of genetic diversity.

Jacobson is not, however, without a government agenda. He wants greater involvement by the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. He supports labeling and more government biotech research "to bring more products and beneficial methods into the public domain." Finally, he advocates "generous assistance to the developing world."

Source: Michael F. Jacobson (Center for Science in the Public Interest), "Consumer Groups Shouldn't Reject Biotech," Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2001.


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