GM Crops and the Environment

A great post from Back40 at Muck and Mystery shedding light on the benefits of Genetically Modified crops and why some people love to hate them:

Harmful Apologists
The foolishness of opposing GM food and fiber crops from an environmental perspective as well as a human health perspective has been pointed out in many previous posts. The list of benefits is long, everything from reduction of wilderness converted to cropland, to reduced use of toxic chemicals. In each case both the environment and humans, especially agricultural workers and rural residents, benefit.

So, why do environmental posers work themselves into fits about GM? Some apologists claim that their motives aren't environmental so much as anti-capitalist. They oppose companies such as Monsanto or industrial agriculture. Their misdirected and ineffective opposition fails to consider that GM crops can and are being developed by many suppliers, not just large agribusiness companies, and the benefits accrue to even the smallest farmers, perhaps even disproportionately benefiting them compared to large factory farms.

Other apologists claim that the role of environmental groups is to be negative, not positive. They exist to find fault.

Environmental groups are frequently criticized for taking an excessively negative attitude towards the issues they are concerned about. Yet that should surprise no one, since it is after all not their function to promote new technologies, particularly those in the commercial sphere; that can be left the public relations experts.

Rather, such groups are important in any society precisely because of their role in pointing out - and indeed in focusing on - either undesirable side-effects of scientific and technological progress that have been given insufficient attention, or potential dangers before they occur. If such groups had been stronger in the United States in the 1950s, the widespread ecological damage recorded by Carson might never have occurred.

This is complete nonsense. Environmental advocacy is not merely organized doubting. It is a view of socioeconomic behavior that seeks to privilege environmental care and is as much or more about advocating good practices as warning about potentially harmful ones. Good environmental arguments establish the economic benefits of best practices as well as emotive, aesthetic or even quasi-religious beliefs.

Just as importantly, useful environmental advocacy is science based. The claim that If such groups had been stronger in the United States in the 1950s, the widespread ecological damage recorded by Carson might never have occurred is a-scientific as well as a-historical. Prior to the pesticides used in the 1950s truly dangerous arsenic and lead based insecticides were used. DDT, the main target of Carson and other uninformed opportunists, was so much better than older pesticides that it was used widely with huge benefits and comparative safety.

The issue for environmentalists isn't that there are no dangers with DDT use, or that there are no environmental consequences that should and could have been publicized, it is that the benefits of DDT use for the environment as well as human health should have been applauded while seeking to establish guidelines for best practices to avoid indiscriminate or unthinking use.

There is more in Back40's post and it is all worth reading.

What caught my eye is that the Enviros are not looking at history and they are not looking at the future. DDT stands as the best solution to the epidemic of malaria that has been killing over one million people in Africa each and every year. When Carson was doing her research, we were using DDT as a "miracle drug" and spreading it around by the fistful. Cheap and effective.

People learn and a little education goes a long long way. Families in Africa could use a few ounces per year to guarantee a much lower incidence of Malaria with no toxic side-effects to the environment but noooooo -- this is DDT we are talking about -- it is toxxxiiiccc!!!!

It is not that difficult to gain an understanding of the basics of Scientific Method, Arithmetic and Statistics. Why is it that so few graduates of "Environmental Studies" programs seem to have working knowledge of these skills.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on May 14, 2005 11:32 PM.

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