The Corner

Science & Tech

Don’t Let Anti-GMO Fanatics Thwart Improved Photosynthesis Crops

(Daniel Acker/Reuters)

I have never understood the implacable opposition by some — primarily on the Left — to the creation of GMO crops that would improve plant nutrition and increase crop yields. It is flat-out unreasoning — and in my view, anti-human, because it would allow millions to remain hungry unnecessarily by imposing a crippling “precautionary principle” approach to agricultural science and idealize the genetic purity of plants.

Thus, the totally benign “yellow rice”– which could prevent vitamin A deficiency in the developing world by genetically engineering rice to produce beta-carotene — remains opposed adamantly by anti-GMO activists. A Swiss experimental wheat field intended to develop a plant that is resistant to fungal infection was trampled asunder by activists.

I assume these radicals will also fight against the genetic altering of plants to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis — now successfully accomplished experimentally with tobacco plants — that opens the potential to dramatically increase rates of growth. From the NPR story:

They experimented with tobacco plants, just because tobacco is easy to work with. They inserted some new genes into these plants, which shut down the existing detoxification assembly line and set up a new one that’s way more efficient. And they created super tobacco plants. “They grew faster, and they grew up to 40 percent bigger” than normal tobacco plants, Cavanagh says. These measurements were done both in greenhouses and open-air field plots.

Wow. Imagine the benefit to be derived for suffering humanity if scientists were able to create similar increases with genetically altered food crops! That is indeed the hope:

The scientists now are trying to do the same thing with plants that people actually rely on for food, like tomatoes and soybeans. They also working with cowpeas, or black-eyed peas, “because it’s a staple food crop for a lot of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, which is where our funders are interested in making the biggest impact,” Cavanagh says.

I can’t imagine that anti-GMO Luddites will go along with this. But if the experiment works and proves safe, they should not be allowed to succeed in preventing its application. The hungry multitudes have so much to gain from this beneficial new biotechnological technique.

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