February 4, 2004

Patrick Moore on GM plants and Ecology

From the Bizarre Science website comes a link to a wonderful essay by Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore. I had blogged about Moore a couple months ago here and posted a link to his current project Greenspirit. Patrick left Greenpeace (and in fact the entire 'environmentalist' culture) when he became frustrated with their lack of scientific reasoning. Here are some excerpts from the essay: bq. I was raised in the tiny fishing and logging village of Winter Harbour on the northwest tip of Vancouver Island, where salmon spawned in the streams of the adjoining Pacific rainforest. In school I discovered ecology, and realized that through science I could gain insight into the natural beauties I had known as a child. In the late 1960s I was transformed into a radical environmental activist. A rag-tag group of activists and I sailed a leaky old halibut boat across the North Pacific to block the last hydrogen bomb tests under President Nixon. In the process I co-founded Greenpeace. Even excerpted, the essay is fairly long so the rest of it is available when you click the 'Continue reading" link below: bq. Not all my former colleagues saw things that way, however. Many environmentalists rejected consensus politics and sustainable development in favor of continued confrontation, ever-increasing extremism, and left-wing politics. At the beginning of the modern environmental movement, Ayn Rand published Return of the Primitive, which contained an essay by Peter Schwartz titled "The Anti- Industrial Revolution." In it, he warned that the new movement's agenda was anti-science, anti-technology, and anti-human. At the time, he didn't get a lot of attention from the mainstream media or the public. Environmentalists were often able to produce arguments that sounded reasonable, while doing good deeds like saving whales and making the air and water cleaner. bq. But now the chickens have come home to roost. The environmentalists' campaign against biotechnology in general, and genetic engineering in particular, has clearly exposed their intellectual and moral bankruptcy. By adopting a zero tolerance policy toward a technology with so many potential benefits for humankind and the environment, they have lived up to Schwartz's predictions. They have alienated themselves from scientists, intellectuals, and internationalists. It seems inevitable that the media and the public will, in time, see the insanity of their position. As my friend Klaus Ammann likes to hope, "maybe biotech will be the Waterloo for Greenpeace and their allies." Then again, maybe that's just wishful thinking. And more: bq. In 2001, the European Commission released the results of 81 scientific studies on genetically modified organisms conducted by over 400 research teams at a cost of U.S. $65 million. The studies, which covered all areas of concern, have "not shown any new risks to human health or the environment, beyond the usual uncertainties of conventional plant breeding. Indeed, the use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants and foods." Clearly my former Greenpeace colleagues are either not reading the morning paper or simply don't care about the truth. And they choose to silence by force those of us who do care about it. bq. The campaign of fear now waged against genetic modification is based largely on fantasy and a complete lack of respect for science and logic. In the balance it is clear that the real benefits of genetic modification far outweigh the hypothetical and sometimes contrived risks claimed by its detractors. And more (talking about Bt cotton being planted in India): bq. Read: poverty and ignorance. It looked like Shiva would win the G.M. debate until 2001, when unknown persons illegally planted 25,000 acres of Bt cotton in Gujarat. The cotton bollworm infestation was particularly bad that year, and there was soon a 25,000 acre plot of beautiful green cotton in a sea of brown. The local authorities were notified and decided that the illegal cotton must be burned. This was too much for the farmers, who could now clearly see the benefits of the Bt variety. In a classic march to city hall with pitchforks in hand, the farmers protested and won the day. Bt cotton was approved for planting in March 2002. One hopes the poverty-stricken cotton farmers of India will become wealthier and deprive Vandana Shiva of her parasitical practice. I've pulled out quotes from about one third of this whole essay - it's thoughtful and worth reading if you are interested in our impact on the environment and if you follow the actions of any of the so-called 'environmentalist' groups. Again, the link to Patrick Moore's home page is here. There is a lot more to read there... Posted by DaveH at February 4, 2004 1:05 PM