In back-to-back legislative sessions, the opponents of biotechnology have tried to enact a “moratorium” on genetically modified wheat, even though biotech wheat isn’t even available as a commercial crop yet. Twice they’ve failed, and their efforts are growing weaker, not stronger.
They won’t stop, though. Right now, in Hawaii, they’re waging a campaign of disinformation against experimental fields where scientists are trying to develop the next generation of biotech plants. These miracle crops will help us boost yields, reduce the need to spray, fight soil erosion, save rainforests, provide more nutrition to feed a growing global-population and even quite possibly find a way to help fight human diseases.
Despite all these terrific benefits, these anti-biotech activists manufacture unfounded fears. This is what’s going on in Europe right now: Special interests spreading propaganda about perfectly safe products and generating political results that aren’t in the interests of farmers or consumers.
With a disturbing regularity, the other side makes claims that are just plain false. We’ve got to answer back with facts, because truth will carry the day. That’s what has happened here in North Dakota.
Let me offer an example. I was accused of violating my Catholic faith because I support giving farmers the freedom to responsibly grow federally approved biotech crops. This is a serious accusation. It’s also patently false. In fact, until recently the Vatican has not gotten involved in disputes between the United States and Europe over genetically modified food.
Then, some months back, it announced that communion wafers may contain genetically modified ingredients. What’s more, Archbishop Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Vatican representative to the UN, said in August that he will issue an official report on biotechnology–and it will include a strong endorsement in support of genetically-modified foods.
“The Book of Genesis clearly establishes the domination of man over nature. God has entrusted mankind to preserve nature but also to use it, and scientific progress is part of the divine plan” said one Vatican official.
Archbishop Martino reflected upon living in the United States for 16 years. “I ate everything that was offered to me, including genetically modified products,” he said. “This controversy is more political than scientific.”
It certainly isn’t religious–even though the desperate foes of biotechnology have wrongly tried to make it so.
The good news is that we’re winning the debate in my home state. But in Hawaii and Europe, phony controversies continue to rage.
We must win in these other places, because biotechnology holds so much promise—including for American wheat farmers like myself. Many of us want to have the option of using new technologies by growing crops that give us more economical value, are more environmentally friendly and at the same time provide great societal benefits. This is progress!
All of this is a tremendous boon to farmers and society. Some of us will use the technology and others won’t–but the choice will be ours, which is exactly where it should be once a product has met federal safety standards. All biotech foods now on the market must pass federal regulatory approval as being safe through the USDA, EPA and the FDA. Where biotech crops have been approved, farmers have been increasing their use exponentially. The reason, I believe, is because farmers have been first hand witnesses to the tremendous benefits and potential of biotechnology.
Half a century ago, the world produced 680 million metric tons of cereal grains. In 2000, we turned out almost 2 billion metric tons. That’s a threefold increase, even though we’re only using about 10 percent more land. It was necessary to boost our food production because of the global population boom, and we were able to do it because new technologies came on line. We must continue in that pursuit.
Now we stand at the threshold of a new era in which biotechnology will help us keep pace in a growing world. It’s a wonderful opportunity that the people of North Dakota appear ready to seize. I hope the Hawaiians and Europeans will join us.