Human Exceptionalism

GMO Opponents’ War on Humans

I am a “trust but verify” kind of guy about GMOs. I believe that genetically altering wheat, rice, and other foods could alleviate tremendous human suffering. But, I also agree it needs to be done with care because of potential safety concerns.

Golden Rice should be non controversial by now. It would add Vitamin A to rice using a gene from carrots–not artificial genes, not insecticide, etc.–that would allow destitute children to eat a cheap foodstuff and receive a necessary vitamin that they would not otherwise consume. But GMO anti-humans irrationally oppose all such modifications. From the Scientific American story:

By 2002, Golden Rice was technically ready to go. Animal testing had found no health risks. Syngenta, which had figured out how to insert the Vitamin A–producing gene from carrots into rice, had handed all financial interests over to a non-profit organization, so there would be no resistance to the life-saving technology from GMO opponents who resist genetic modification because big biotech companies profit from it.

Except for the regulatory approval process, Golden Rice was ready to start saving millions of lives and preventing tens of millions of cases of blindness in people around the world who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency.

But GMO opponents elevate unaltered “nature” over the welfare of people and have kept it successfully from the market, I suspect because a success could open the door to more GMO foods. This has extracted a terrible toll:

Their study, published in the journal Environment and Development Economics, estimates that the delayed application of Golden Rice in India alone has cost 1,424,000 life years since 2002. That odd sounding metric – not just lives but ‘life years’ – accounts not only for those who died, but also for the blindness and other health disabilities that Vitamin A deficiency causes.

The majority of those who went blind or died because they did not have access to Golden Rice were children. These are real deaths, real disability, real suffering, not the phantom fears about the human health effects of Golden Rice thrown around by opponents, none of which have held up to objective scientific scrutiny.

I am wary of the accuracy of such studies, but I do believe they tell a true underlying story.

So, why not help these needy people? Why not prevent untold human suffering? Feelings–as in “what I feels,” instead of “what I think”–a bane of our time!

The whole GMO issue is really just one example of a far more profound threat to your health and mine. The perception of risk is inescapably subjective, a matter of not just the facts, but how we feel about those facts.

This reminds me of the anti-GMO activists who destroyed a crop of experimental wheat altered to resist fungus. Think of the potential human benefit if wheat could be stored for longer periods. But the anti-human, neo-earth worshippers don’t care. 

And that’s why I call misanthropic environmentalism the war on humans.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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