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Friday, 3 June 2016

Countering Pro-GMO Deceptions and Falsehoods. Genetically Engineered Crops are not Safe

Colin Todhunter 
Global Research

In his recent piece for The Times newspaper in the UK, Viscount Matt Ridley argues that a new report from the American National Academies of Sciences (NAS) leaves no room for doubt that genetically engineered crops are as safe or safer, and are certainly better for the environment, than conventionally bred crops.

Ridley adheres to the belief that GM technology reduces insecticide use and speculates that future GM crops will be even safer, better for the environment and better for human health. He says that it is a disgrace that Greenpeace still campaigns against Golden Rice, a vitamin-enhanced variety that its backers claim could save hundreds of thousands of lives a year.

According to Ridley, opposition from rich westerners adds to the cost of bringing such crops to the market, which he argues restricts the spread of GM technology.

In discussing the labelling of GM food in the US, Ridley argues this leaves consumers with the impression that there is something wrong. He argues that the recent NAS report makes the point that genetic engineering is a method, not a category of crop, and it makes no sense to single it out for special labelling because regulation should be based on traits, not techniques. Ridley implies, therefore, that GM is no different from food that is boiled or roasted as its actual content remains unaffected.

Ridley finishes by saying the NAS report points out that “emerging genetic technologies have blurred the distinction between genetic engineering and conventional plant breeding to the point where regulatory systems based on process are technically difficult to defend.”

With a good dose of industry-inspired PR flurry, he concludes that because gene editing in particular will soon allow scientists to improve crops in ways that have none of the even theoretical risks that critics highlight, if Europe does not embrace biotech plants now, its agriculture will wilt.

Unfortunately, for readers of The Times, Ridley’s piece is the usual concoction of misrepresentations, falsehoods and blunders we have come to expect of pro-GMO puff pieces that rely on flawed sources and reports.

His major blunder is to have accepted at face value the NAS report.

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