Monday, May 12, 2003

The GM Jeremiahs

Nick Cohen wrote an interesting piece for the Observer yesterday in which he looks at the misjudgement of risk. He uses two examples: the Y2K bug (the hugely expensive hunt for software bugs was the financial disaster, not the bug itself) and GM crops. He thinks denying GM to the third world is to impose first world niceties on people who are in desperate need of this technology.

Fair enough. Except that he blows his argument with comments like: 'Which isn't to say that the environmentalists have been proved wrong. Whatever the Royal Society says, absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. Just because no one has proved that GM food can damage your health doesn't mean that it can't. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have a check list of dozens of tests they want carried out. Their spokesmen point out, reasonably, that it is very hard to find out if GM food has damaged Americans because there has been no proper monitoring of who eats what.'

What he misses is that one of the main reasons that countries like Zambia have avoided GM is that they can't export it to Europe. And if they grow any GM, European regulations will make it impossible to export even non-GM crops to Europe. So the niceties of consumers in Europe do have to be challenged, to protect the developing world and to challenge the anti-science views of NGOs like Greenpeace.

The GM Jeremiahs, Observer, 11 May 2003


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