Science when it suits

July 5, 2016

More than 100 Nobel laureates have written an open letter to Greenpeace, the United Nations and governments around the world urging Greenpeace to support science and end their campaign against genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The United Nations Food & Agriculture Program has noted that global production of food, feed and fiber will need approximately to double by 2050 to meet the demands of a growing global population. Organizations opposed to modern plant breeding, with Greenpeace at their lead, have repeatedly denied these facts and opposed biotechnological innovations in agriculture. They have misrepresented their risks, benefits, and impacts, and supported the criminal destruction of approved field trials and research projects.

We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against “GMOs” in general and Golden Rice in particular.

Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production. There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.

Greenpeace has spearheaded opposition to Golden Rice, which has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia.

The World Health Organization estimates that 250 million people, suffer from VAD, including 40 percent of the children under five in the developing world. Based on UNICEF statistics, a total of one to two million preventable deaths occur annually as a result of VAD, because it compromises the immune system, putting babies and children at great risk. VAD itself is the leading cause of childhood blindness globally affecting 250,000 – 500,000 children each year. Half die within 12 months of losing their eyesight.

WE CALL UPON GREENPEACE to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general;

WE CALL UPON GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD to reject Greenpeace’s campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general; and to do everything in their power to oppose Greenpeace’s actions and accelerate the access of farmers to all the tools of modern biology, especially seeds improved through biotechnology. Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped.

How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”?

The names of the 110 signatories, all Nobel laureates, are here.

L. Val Gidding, senior fellow at The Information and Technologies Innovation Center. He previously served as vice president for Food & Agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and as expert consultant to the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank, USDA, USAID, and companies, organizations and governments around the world,  writes:

The website accompanying the release documents the global scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs (recently reaffirmed by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, and virtually every other authoritative scientific body on the planet). It also documents the abundant and widespread environmental and economic benefits confirmed by the experience of more than 18 million farmers around the world, the vast majority of them small farmers in developing countries.

Other sections explain what GMOs are (describing them, more accurately, as a component of precision agriculture) and describe how scientists learned to make them by mimicking completely natural patterns of gene exchange found everywhere in nature. A section documents and corrects the false and misleading statements used by Greenpeace in its propaganda campaign to raise unwarranted fears and money to support its multinational organization, and the efforts of some governments to hold Greenpeace to account.

The Laureates’ website also documents former campaigners for Greenpeace and other environmental groups who examined the facts, discovered the truth, and broke with Greenpeace and other groups opposing innovation in agriculture, including Richard di Natale, Greenpeace Australia; Steven Tinsdale, Greenpeace UK; Patrick Moore, Greenpeace Canada & Greenpeace International; Mark Lynas, Greenpeace UK & the Soil Association); Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Catalogue & the Long Now Foundation; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; and Bizarro creator Dan Piraro. Additional materials provide further information from credible and independent third parties.

The organizing force behind this project is Sir Richard Roberts (Nobel Prize, 1993, Physiology or Medicine).

It is clearly past time for Greenpeace and others opposed to GMOs to follow the data and adopt a truly “green” and science-based position on genetic modification. The challenges facing society require a shift from political correctness to scientific correctness. Governments and other parties should do likewise.

 

Greenpeace is not the only organisation guilty of going for emotion rather than science over GMOs.

Hastings District Council is promoting itself as GM-free.

And of course the Green Party, which urges everyone to back the science on climate change, ignores it on GMOs:

The Green Party says it will not soften its anti-genetic modification stance despite a plea from some of the world’s top scientists, who say opposition by green groups is blocking GM foods that could help reduce disease in third-world countries. . . 

The open letter prompted Act Party leader David Seymour to call on the Green Party to abandon its “outdated” position on GM.

“The Green Party needs to catch up with science, and modify its position on genetic modification, especially when Golden Rice has the ability to give sight to thousands of babies struggling with a lack of Vitamin A,” he said.

Green Party GM spokesman Steffan Browning said the party re-evaluated its GM policy regularly, but it would not be making any changes as a result of the open letter. . .

Science isn’t foolproof. New evidence can challenge and change what were thought to be facts and it is sensible to be cautious about any new developments.

But GMOs have been in wide enough use for long enough to make continued blanket opposition to them a triumph of emotion over science.

Using science only when it suits your prejudices and beliefs is at best hypocritical. In the case of continued opposition to  GMOs it is preventing developments which would be better for the environment and provide economic opportunities, and it’s costing lives.

 


Radical green agenda politics not charity

December 15, 2012

Quite how an organisation which spends so much of its time, and supporters’ money, on politically motivated campaigns can claim to be a charity rather than a political organisation is beyond me.

One of Greenpeace’s founders has no doubts about its agenda:

Canadian ecologist Patrick Moore, a former Greenpeace International director who helped found and lead the group, says it appears Greenpeace’s major aim these days is to confuse the public about the nature of the environment and the place of humans in it “by spreading falsehoods and innuendo”.

“Since I left Greenpeace, its members, and the majority of the movement, have adopted policy after policy that reflects their anti-human bias, illustrates their rejection of science and technology and actually increases the risk of harm to people and the environment,” he says. . .

The distinction between charitable and political purpose matters because the former allows an organisation special tax status.

The Charities Commission ruled that Greenpeace’s primary purpose was political. The Court of Appeal decided that the organisation could appeal that ruling.

Greenpeace does do some practical work which might qualify as charitable but most of what we see of its public face is blatantly political.


Should it be Redpeace?

February 20, 2012

A criticism of many green parties and organisations is that they are watermelons with a green shell covering a red heart.

Dr Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace, provides support for that contention in his book Confessions of  Greenpeace dropout: the making of a sensible environmentalist.

You could call me a Greenpeace dropout, but that is not an entirely  accurate description of how or why I left the organization 15 years  after I helped create it. I’d like to think Greenpeace left me, rather  than the other way around, but that too is not entirely correct.

The truth is Greenpeace and I underwent divergent evolutions. I  became a sensible environmentalist; Greenpeace became increasingly  senseless as it adopted an agenda that is antiscience, antibusiness, and downright antihuman. . .

While it might be anti-business, Greenpeace is not above exploiting people or using dubious commercial methods to raise money and lure new recruits.

Those people, usually young, who badger you to join up in the street are on commission and only get paid if and when those they sign up don’t pull out within the few day’s grace period in which they’re permitted to do so after joining.

. . . During the early 1980s two things happened that altered my  perspective on the direction in which environmentalism, in general, and  Greenpeace, in particular, were heading. The first was my introduction  to the concept of sustainable development at a global meeting of  environmentalists. The second was the adoption of policies by my fellow  Greenpeacers that I considered extremist and irrational. These two  developments would set the stage for my transformation from a radical  activist into a sensible environmentalist.

In 1982, the United Nations held a conference in Nairobi to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first UN Environment Conference in  Stockholm, which I had also attended. I was one of 85 environmental  leaders from around the world who were invited to craft a statement of our  collective goals for environmental protection. It quickly became  apparent there were two nearly opposite perspectives in the room—the  antidevelopment  perspective of environmentalists from wealthy industrialized countries  and the prodevelopment perspective of environmentalists from the poor  developing countries.

As one developing country activist put it, taking a stand against  development in his woefully poor country would get him laughed out of  the room. It was hard to argue with his position. A well-fed person has  many problems, a hungry person has but one. The same is true for  development, or lack of it. We could see the tragic reality of poverty  on the outskirts of our Kenyan host city. Those of us from  industrialized countries recognized we had to be in favor of some kind  of development, preferably the kind that didn’t ruin the environment in  the process. Thus the concept of sustainable development was born.

This was when I first fully realized there was another step beyond  pure environmental activism. The real challenge was to figure out how to take the environmental values we had helped create and weave them into  the social and economic fabric of our culture. This had to be done in  ways that didn’t undermine the economy and were socially acceptable. It  was clearly a question of careful balance, not dogmatic adherence to a  single principle. . .

It is rank hypocrisy for people from developed countries with all the benefits of first world economies and the first world infrastructure and services that supports to tell people in poor countries development is bad.

Sustainable development is the balance between economic, environmental and social requirements. Its proponents aren’t anti-business or anti-people and they welcome science because it provides evidence-based information and solutions rather than greenwash which might look fine but might do no good and at times causes harm to the environment.

An example of this is recycling. It certainly reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills but the environmental cost of transporting and processing is sometimes greater than that of dumping.

. . .  By the early 1980s a  majority of the public, at least in the Western democracies, agreed with us that the environment should be taken into account in all our  activities. When most people agree with you it is probably time to stop  beating them over the head and sit down with them to seek solutions to  our environmental problems. 

At the same time I chose to become less militant and more diplomatic, my Greenpeace colleagues became more extreme and intolerant of  dissenting opinions from within.

In the early days we debated complex issues openly and often. It was a wonderful group to engage with in wide-ranging environmental policy  discussions. The intellectual energy in the organization was infectious. We frequently disagreed about specific issues, yet our ultimate vision  was largely shared. Importantly, we strove to be scientifically  accurate. For years this had been the topic of many of our internal  debates. I was the only Greenpeace activist with a PhD in ecology, and  because I wouldn’t allow exaggeration beyond reason I quickly earned the nickname “Dr. Truth.” It wasn’t always meant as a compliment. Despite  my efforts, the movement abandoned science and logic somewhere in the  mid-1980s, just as society was adopting the more reasonable items on our environmental agenda.

Ironically, this retreat from science and logic was partly a response to society’s growing acceptance of environmental values. Some activists simply couldn’t make the transition from confrontation to consensus; it was as if they needed a common enemy. When a majority of people decide  they agree with all your reasonable ideas the only way you can remain  confrontational and antiestablishment is to adopt ever more extreme  positions, eventually abandoning science and logic altogether in favor  of zero-tolerance policies. . .

We have only one world and most people agree on the importance of looking after it. There is however, disagreement on the how and finding a way to do it in a way which is not anti-business or anti-people is much more likely to succeed than the radical recipe promoted by red-greens.

To a  considerable extent the environmental movement was hijacked by political and social activists who learned to use green language to cloak agendas that had more to do with anticapitalism and antiglobalization than with science or ecology. I remember visiting our Toronto office in 1985 and  being surprised at how many of the new recruits were sporting army  fatigues and red berets in support of the Sandinistas.

I don’t blame them for seizing the opportunity. There was a lot of  power in our movement and they saw how it could be turned to serve their agendas of revolutionary change and class struggle. But I differed with them because they were extremists who confused the issues and the  public about the nature of our environment and our place in it. To this  day they use the word industry as if it were a swear word. The same goes for multinational, chemical, genetic, corporate, globalization, and a  host of other perfectly useful terms. Their propaganda campaign is aimed at promoting an ideology that I believe would be extremely damaging to  both civilization and the environment. . .

Those perfectly useful terms are almost always used with negative connotations by radical environmentalists and their ideology is dangerous.

. . . The main purpose of this book is to establish a new approach to  environmentalism and to define sustainability as the key to achieving  environmental goals. This requires embracing humans as a positive  element in evolution rather than viewing us as some kind of mistake. The celebrated Canadian author Farley Mowat has described humans as a “fatally flawed species.” This kind of pessimism may be politically  correct today, but it is terribly self-defeating. Short of mass suicide  there doesn’t seem to be an appropriate response. I believe we should  celebrate our existence and constantly put our minds toward making the  world a better place for people and all the other species we share it  with. . .

Unlike those he criticise, Moore is optimistic about the future of the world and people’s place in it.

He also has some suggestions on what we could do to protect and enhance the environment at no great cost to the economy or people:

• We should be growing more trees and using more wood, not  cutting fewer trees and using less wood as Greenpeace and its allies  contend. Wood is the most important renewable material and  energy resource.

• Those countries that have reserves of potential hydroelectric  energy should build the dams required to deliver that energy. There is  nothing wrong with creating more lakes in this world.

• Nuclear energy is essential for our future energy supply,  especially if we wish to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. It has  proven to be clean safe, reliable, and cost-effective.

• Geothermal heat pumps, which too few people know about, are far  more important and cost-effective than either solar panels or wind mills as a source of renewable energy. They should be required in all new  buildings unless there is a good reason to use some other technology for heating, cooling, and making hot water.

• The most effective way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is  to encourage the development of technologies that require less or no  fossil fuels to operate. Electric cars, heat pumps, nuclear and  hydroelectric energy, and biofuels are the answer, not cumbersome  regulatory systems that stifle economic activity.

• Genetic science, including genetic engineering, will improve  nutrition and end malnutrition, improve crop yields, reduce the  environmental impact of farming, and make people and the environment  healthier.

• Many activist campaigns designed to make us fear useful chemicals are based on misinformation and unwarranted fear.

• Aquaculture, including salmon and shrimp farming, will be one of  our most important future sources of healthy food. It will also take  pressure off depleted wild fish stocks and will employ millions of  people productively.

• There is no cause for alarm about climate change. The climate is  always changing. Some of the proposed “solutions” would be far worse  than any imaginable consequence of global warming, which will likely be  mostly positive. Cooling is what we should fear.

• Poverty is the worst environmental problem. Wealth and urbanization will stabilize the human population. Agriculture should be mechanized  throughout the developing world. Disease and malnutrition can be largely eliminated by the application of modern technology. Health care,  sanitation, literacy, and electrification should be provided to  everyone.

• No whale or dolphin should be killed or captured anywhere, ever.  This is one of my few religious beliefs. They are the only species on  earth whose brains are larger than ours and it is impossible to kill or  capture them humanely.

Hat tip: Kiwiblog and NZ Conservative

 


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