Friday, January 16, 2009

Green fanatics vs. genetic science

(I would like to thank Mr. Jackson for allowing me to reprint his article. RK)

Gerard Jackson, of BrookesNews.Com

In Mary Shelley's chilling tale Dr Frankenstein creates a monster out of body parts, which, according to the Hollywood version, becomes a beastly killer completely out of control. Latching on to this vision green cultists malevolently labeled genetically modified food as "Frankenstein foods", conveniently ignoring the fact that we have been genetically altering our foodstuffs — including livestock — for thousands of years.

As expected, a number of green-sympathizing journalists joined this reactionary crusade, some of whom relied on Dr David Suzuki's Altered Genes. Reconstructing Nature: The Debate as a prime information. Although this book was published about ten years ago it seems that like Rachel Carson's grossly dishonest and very lethal Silent Spring Suzuki's book keeps being recycled by half-witted intellectuals.

The underlying theme of Altered Genes is so obvious, even when the author tries to conceal it, that the discerning reader can easily express it in a single sentence. A relentless hatred of capitalism! This tendentious work masquerades as a scholarly attempt to debate the dangers of genetic engineering. Unfortunately, of the many things missing from the book, debate and scholarly intentions are the most prominent.

Suzuki's introduction set a tone from which the book did not waver. Using the tactic of giving a dog a bad name to justify shooting it, he resorted to historical fiction in which genetics was blamed for the rise of eugenics that culminated in the horrific experiments of Josef Mengele. In fact, the origins of the Nazi euthanasia program and Mengele's experiments had their beginnings in the victory of positive law over the rule of law.

Euthanasia was rationalized in Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life, a book published in 1920 and written by Karl Binding, a famous law professor, in collaboration with Dr Alfred Hoche. Even though the authors were social democrats their views were welcomed by Nazi ideologues. Nevertheless, it still took the destruction of the rule of law to make possible the despotic rule of the jackboot and its consequent horrors. Genetics played no role whatsoever in this atrocity, despite Suzuki's views.

The rest of the book is no better. Fourteen authors condemning markets and the wickedness of profiting from genetic engineering; warning us against the perils of "genetic pollution" and the menace of the unknown; railing against the alleged potential horrors of genetic engineering; the greed and dishonesty of multinationals, especially Monsanto; the injustice of intellectual property rights in genetically engineered organisms; the danger of allowing multinationals the right to patent and market their genetically altered products. (No wonder it reads like a political tract). Yet the authors failed to provide a shred of genuine credible evidence that warranted their dire predictions or justified what amounted to a ban on genetic engineering.

Regardless of the word debate in the title, debate was the last thing on the authors' minds. They made no genuine concessions to genetic engineering; they stressed only 'facts' and allegations that could be used to condemn the technology; alternative opinions are ignored and nightmare futures are a staple ingredient; multinationals are attacked along with science; much is made of the alleged social costs of genetic engineering while the benefits are treated as mere assertions.

Astonishing increases in agricultural productivity made possible by chemical and genetic engineering do not rate a mention along with their social benefits; ideological claptrap is passed off as informed opinion and scientists are denigrated as being part of some mysterious "bio-elite"; green organizations are paraded as acting in the public interest, though they are self-appointed and ideologically opposed to economic growth; public fears and concerns about genetic engineering that environmentalist organizations fuelled are used to justify political control of the technology.

Particularly irritating was their tactic of frequently quoting themselves or each other in support of their own arguments. A sure sign that there is little or no genuine scientific support for their views! What is particularly striking, however, is the book's complete lack of humanity, despite its humanitarian pretensions. People merely appear as background scenery for the authors' ideological setting.

There is no acknowledgement of the role Western science, technology and chemical companies have played in eliminating the threat of mass famine from the planet. The extent to which the Third World has benefited from technology transfers is completely ignored. But this attitude should not surprise us once we consider that the book's proposals would even see an end to the production of life-saving genetically engineered vaccines. The very fact that their proposals would literally amount to a death sentence for millions of people, just as the ban on DDT did, is enough to condemn them as a vicious bunch of misanthropic green.

The real Frankensteins are greens fanatics and their media mates who have tried to create a monster out of a life-saving technology so they can get it banned. What does this say about them? Plenty, is the answer.

Gerard Jackson is Brookesnews' economics editor






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