GM Crops Under Assault

June 24, 2010

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the Renewable Fuels Association, Wal-Mart Stores, Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I have been very critical of the liberal position of the New York Times editorial page, but not today. My compliments to Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology at the University of California at Davis and James McWilliams, a history professor at Texas State University at San Marcos. Their op ed published May 14 is right on target. This sentence of theirs sets the tone:

“Opponents of genetically engineered crops have spent much of the last decade stoking consumer distrust of this precise and safe technology, even though as the research council’s previous reports noted, engineered crops have harmed neither human health nor the environment.”

Here is my take on this –

The critics of genetic engineering have been relentless in their attack. Why? Their criticism isn’t justified. The plants are safe. The food is safe. In fact, many different engineered foods are even more nutritious. Golden Rice, which has been fortified with vitamin A, will save thousands of lives. We now have sorghum that has been genetically engineered to provide many different needed micronutrients. Potatoes with more protein.

Do you ever eat a papaya from Hawaii? Those papayas have been engineered to control ringspot virus. The list of nutritional advances is long, but that’s only part of the package. Crop yields are going up. When I was a boy on the farm, we couldn’t raise a 100 bushel acre corn crop. Now, we raise 200 bushels per acre – no sweat.

Our use of chemicals to control pests and herbicides to control weeds has been cut in half. We are clearly doing a far better job of protecting the environment.

Why isn’t the industry being cheered for such remarkable progress?

Our critics are so shortsighted. They are blind to the possible consequences of their crusade. How many people in this world will starve if we don’t adopt new technology? How many people will be denied the more nutritious food? Why would they not want us to protect the environment with better farming techniques? Are they ignorant or just plain selfish?

The closing lines of the op ed had this to say:

“If we continue to allow propaganda to trump science, then the potential for global agriculture to be productive, diverse and sustainable will go unfulfilled. We will not be the ones to suffer the direct consequences, but rather the poorest and most vulnerable.”

In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to http://www.johnblockreports.com .

Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.