01 Dec 1999 Anti-Biotechnology Policies Backed by Some Seattle Protesters Could Cause Preventable Starvation in the Developing World
Protesters disrupting the WTO meeting in Seattle are in part protesting programs that could be of great benefit to poor people in developing countries, says the National Center for Public Policy Research.
One of the issues cited by protesters as a cause for violence is that of biotechnology, or genetically-modified food. Although there is no evidence that such food is unsafe, European groups and many American environmentalists oppose it on the grounds that genetically-modifying food tinkers with nature.
If the activists have their way, however, over the next two decades thousands if not millions of people in the developing world could starve to death or suffer serious and often permanent disability due to malnutrition. These are people who could be helped or saved through biotechnology.
One of the benefits of biotechnology is that it can substantially increase agricultural productivity in the developing world by making it possible to grow crops in areas that cannot currently sustain them. For example, a crop that cannot naturally grow under wet conditions can be altered so it thrives in such circumstances. Crops that are very vulnerable to drought to can be altered to be more drought-resistant.
Over the next 20 years, world population is expected to increase by 75 million persons a year, mostly in the developing world. To meet the demand for food, these nations will need to increase their own agricultural output and increase food imports by an estimated $500 million cubic tons. 60% of the increased food exports will probably need to come from the United States. Biotechnology can also help increase U.S. crop yields, making it possible for U.S. farmers to meet this new demand for crops.
"Most of the protesters opposing biotechnology probably have no idea that they are risking the lives of poor people in the developing world," said Amy Ridenour, president of The National Center for Public Policy Research. "But there is no excuse for their ignorance. These activists have decided to try to shut down an important international conference, risk injury to others and damage the property of innocent persons to draw attention to their views. At the very least, they have an obligation to know all the repercussions of what they are advocating."
The National Center For Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation based in Washington, D.C. Contact Amy Ridenour at 202-507-6398 or [email protected].