Despite the opposition of President Bush to federal subsidies for embryonic stem cell research, the United States isn’t the only jurisdiction that has had problems coming to terms with the implications of the genetic revolution. Ronald Bailey reports on EU intransigence on genetically modified (GM) crops, and how these EU regulations are having dire consequences for the livelihoods of the world’s poor people:
[T]he constituency of anti-biotech environmental groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth is not poor African and Asian farmers and their families, but affluent and easily frightened European consumers. In response to ferocious pressure ginned up by the misleading campaigns of ideological environmentalists, EU politicians and bureaucrats have built an all but impenetrable wall of anti-biotech regulations around themselves. Wielding these onerous crop biotechnology regulations, the EU, on specious safety grounds, has essentially banned the importation of most biotech crops and foods. But these regulations do not only have consequences for European farmer and consumers.
The EU wants to export its regulatory system to the world, and it is offering “capacity building” foreign aid to persuade developing countries to adopt its no-go or go-slow approach to crop biotechnology regulations. Even more tragically, some developing countries are so afraid of the EU’s anti-biotech wrath that they are willing to risk the lives of millions of their hungry by rejecting food aid that contains genetically enhanced crops.
Activists usually blame the inaction of rich countries for killing people in poor countries. However, instead of outrage here, we get Greenpeace geneticist Doreen Stabinsky primly quipping in the Post-Dispatch, “Hunger is not solved by producing more food. We’re the breadbasket of the world, and we have hungry people in the U.S.”
Hunger may not be solved by producing more food, but it sure couldn’t hurt.
There’s a saying, that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; but if you teach him to fish, you feed him for a life time. What the anti-biotech groups’ approach boils down to is a refusal to teach their poorer neighbors to fish. This is unsurprising, as such groups are generally anti-liberal (in that they expect government to provide), and dispensing immediate aid doesn’t require teaching anyone how to be self-sufficient. This is of a piece with the anti-liberal hostility toward individual responsibility. (Do not confuse this with the liberal sympathy for the plight of the poor, as true liberals advocate both giving the man a fish and teaching him to fish.)
Rather odd, given the chidings that Americans are usually subjected to from Europeans dismissing our supposedly parochial attitudes toward technology. You’d think they’d know better. Then again, if their own farmers were at least marginally more efficient, they wouldn’t have to import food and thus run the risk of importing GM foods. Try telling that to someone in Brussels.
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]