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September 05, 2003

Another take on GMOs

I have a habit of disagreeing with what Jimmy Carter has to say, so you can imagine my surprise when Dave Tepper pointed to this piece, wherein we discover that Mr. Carter thinks that the use of genetically modified crops in Africa is a good thing.

Here's a sample:

There are misguided and ill-advised and sincere people who believe that all crops on Earth should be grown without any soil or chemicals or genetically improved plants being used. They even protest the simple use o f fertilizers to maintain the productivity of a field.

They don't realize that a field in the developing world, if not fertilized, will have to be abandoned and another similar area will have to be slashed and burned. There is a momentous decision to be made within the next six months derived from the 1972 global environmental conferenceb in Rio de Janeiro. And there's a powerful lobby that has evolved to prevent the importation of any genetically modified organisms. This would almost totally prohibit, in those countries, any of the advantages I have described to you. It's not just a minor problem. It is perhaps the most serious problem that the Danforth Plant Science Center and the products of its research face in the future.

The people at Monsanto know all about this. The people at Merck knew all about this. The people at American Home Products knew all about this. The news media people know. I have used my own limited influence to try to instruct the world that these advantages or advances in science are crucial to the well-being of the people on Earth. So far, to little avail.

There are, of course, serious probelms not only political but economic with trying to use these technologies on a broad scale in Africa. The UN insists that we must donate not just the seed but the science behind it, so that nations do not become beholden to American companies, and dependent on purchasing from them. Some nations refuse to allow GMO crops, because of Europe's stance toward them. They're starving to death worrying about genetic drift and future markets. And of course, some dictators use the existence of the technology to try to manipulate the U.S. to their advantage, rather than the advantage of their people.

But Jimmy Carter, at least, gets it:

And, of course, the most important responsibility, perhaps, is to evolve ways to control weeds, to make plants impervious to insect attack and to increase yields. That's very important, but it is also important to protect wetlands, rain forests, to reduce erosion, to feed hungry people and to preserve the health of little children whom we will never know, but whose lives and well-being will depend on the people here.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by at September 5, 2003 04:13 PM

Jimmy Carter as The Blind Squirrel and all that.
(Hey, what a great name for a blog!)

Posted by: nathan at September 5, 2003 05:01 PM
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