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The Future of Food Needs to Include Biotech Crops

May 16, 2011
You might have heard that the Prince of Wales, just days after hosting the Royal Wedding, paid us a visit here in Washington.  Prince Charles, a long-time organic food advocate and self-described environmentalist, was here to speak at a Washington Post symposium on the Future of Food.

While it is, of course, perfectly fine that the event featured a parade of speakers extolling the virtues of “sustainable agriculture” and made their case for organic farming, it is unfortunate that the sponsors chose to provide such a one-sided perspective.  Most knowledgeable observers know that to feed a fast-growing and increasingly hungry world population while offering a wide range of food choices to those of us fortunate enough to buy luxury foods, we need room for agricultural practices of all sizes and there is plenty of room for biotech crops and organic farms.

Jim Greenwood

In recent months, we have seen a formal call for coexistence among farmers and farming practices, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack declared coexistence a priority for the USDA.

But for the food-activist corps – including a group militantly dedicated to restricting farmer and consumer choice – coexistence is unacceptable. Despite the fact that coexistence is alive and well out in the farmland – and has been for decades – those who really know very little about “sustainable agriculture” are continuing their efforts to oppose biotechnology at all levels, and at whatever cost.

For example, California already has a statewide ban on raising genetically engineered fish, and technology opponents are currently working to mandate the labeling of any GE fish that might be imported into the state.  The California measure fails to consider that if and when the Food and Drug Administration approve GE salmon, the petition only allows for the fish to be farmed at one inland farm in Panama.  Any future locations would have to be subsequently approved by the FDA.

Some other states’ legislatures also are looking at labeling bills for biotech-derived food, despite the fact that the government has determined that biotech foods are no different from conventionally produced  foods, and therefore do not need to carry a different label.

It is time to elevate this discussion from vitrioloic and anti-science rhetoric to a rational debate based on the facts.  Bill Horan, a grain farmer from Rockwell City, Iowa, offers an honest, no-nonsense critique of the recent Washington Post event and provides readers with a bit of food for thought....