Friday, December 24, 2010

Genetically Modified Foods: Ending Famine Forever

By Alan Caruba

One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, along with Disease and War, is Famine. For the relatively short history of man on earth, famine has killed millions and continues to do so today. We who routinely wander the aisles of the modern supermarket, deciding which of the twenty brands and styles of bread we want to eat, having a insanely huge choice of breakfast cereals, strolling past refrigerated cases of every kind of frozen food imaginable, and browsing through the selection of fresh meats and fishes, can hardly imagine what famine is.

All this took a while to evolve. Around 8,000 BC, agriculture-based societies began to develop in Europe and Asia. People began to save the best seed from their harvest to plant the following season. Some seeds did better than others in various kinds of soils and under various kinds of weather conditions. People noticed that. By selecting certain seeds over others, they were genetically engineering a better crop. They didn't know it that of course, nor could they have imagined a world in which these two words, genetically engineering or genetically modifying, would be used to stop the greatest advance in agriculture in 10,000 years.

By 1800 BC, yeast was being used to make wine, beer and leavened bread. This was the first use of microorganisms to create new types of food. Quite possibly, some people were frightened by this new invention, until, of course, they began to taste the wine, beer and bread.

Let us now leap forward in time. It was not until 1795 that Nicolas-Francois Appert invented a way to preserve fresh foods by heating and sealing it in metal or glass containers. The reason he came up with this was that Napoleon needed a way to feed his troops so they could ravage Europe and attack Russia. He offered a big reward to anyone who could devise a way to provide fresh, safe food. Thus began the canned food industry!

In 1856, Louis Pasteur invented a process of heating liquids to destroy harmful or unwanted organisms, germs that killed people. It was a huge leap forward in food safety. That was less than 150 years ago. In 1865, an Austrian botanist, Gregor Mendel conducted experiments on pea plants in a monastery garden, concluding that something unseen was passing traits from one generation of peas to another. His findings would be ignored for several decades. He had begun the science of genetics between morning and evening prayers.

Now, let's get to the most recent century. In 1914, Clarence Birdseye invented quick-frozen foods, making many seasonal vegetables, meats and fish available at any time of the year. Some people probably were frightened of the idea of defrosting these foods and actually eating them. People tend to be afraid of new ideas.

In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick, two researchers, defined the structure of DNA, leading to a better understanding of how cells in all living things store, duplicate, and pass on genetic material from generation to generation. Within the lifetime of a single person, we had moved from Mendel to cracking the DNA code. By 1990, the US Department of Agriculture had approved the first food product modified by biotechnology, Chymogen, an enzyme used in place of rennet in cheesemaking.

On January 22, 2000, more than six hundred scientists from around the world signed a "Declaration in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology" because just about every environmental organization you can name was busy trying to put an end to the use of this new technology which can feed the planet's population of six billion people. Not only that, it can feed them without having to cut down a single tree to create new farmland. It gets better; it can do it while reducing the need for pesticides to combat thousands of pests that attack food crops.

Now, I ask you, if the Greens are so hell-bent to save the earth, why are they so completely lined up against saving a few million lives that could benefit from something called food! The answer is that the Greens always have and always will oppose anything that benefits human beings. They will save the whales, the wolves and the grizzly bears. They will burn down ski resorts to save the bobcat, they will attack the right of ranchers to graze their cattle or sheep on federal land. They will get the key chemical for refrigeration and air conditioning banned. They will seek to ban every pesticide and herbicide needed to protect against disease and the growing of crops, but the one thing they will NOT do is anything that will improve and protect the lives of human beings!

Farmers have been genetically modifying crop plants for centuries, using hybridization and selection techniques, but when modern science can enhance food crops to grow more on less land, with less use of chemicals, and to be more nutritious, the Greens were in the streets of Seattle trying to stop it.

Throughout Europe, the effort is on to ban the import of GM foods. Here in the United States, legislation requiring that GM products be labeled has been introduced in Congress. Some major corporations have already caved into the Greenpeace demands that they not purchase GM crops in the manufacture of their food products. In Lansing, Michigan, a visiting associate professor had her office set on fire by radical environmentalists on New Year's Eve because she is engaged in research to increase food production and making food more nutritious.

Do you see a pattern here? The only people that want to insure that Famine remains one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are the Greens.

© 1999 Alan Caruba.

All Rights Reserved.

This article originally appeared here!  Comments will not be accepted that are rude, crude, stupid or smarmy. Nor will I allow ad hominem attacks.


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