Environmental Policy

The Economist’s Wacky Debate Page on Genetically Engineered Food

When I first began reading through the Economist’s debate page on biotechnology, I thought “oh, the spin. It hurts.” First of all, the term “biotechnology” was being used to describe the technologies in question, rather than “GMO food” or “GE food”. Then, when I saw that BASF was sponsoring it, and was given a prominent link in which they could spin their practices (and spin they do – the copywriter responsible for this has admittedly produced one of the best spin pages I have ever seen), I was ready to judge the whole operation as a well-financed spin machine.

Then I saw the poll, in which those against biotechnology are outweighing those who are for it, not by a wide margin, but by enough of one that they are “winning”. This is mostly due to the advocate for the side of organic food, Charles Benbrook, and his moderate yet logical responses throughout the debate. One of my favourite passages:

“Those advocating GE as the solution to world hunger seem to gloss over the fact that poverty is the primary cause of hunger. Three “currents” of change must come together with rural economic development to advance food security:

  1. Pest losses and food waste must be cut dramatically (eg, by one-half).
  2. Dietary patterns must shift towards crops that provide more human food calories and diverse nutrients per acre/hectare (eg, potatoes, squash, beans, berries), with relatively less reliance on grain-fed livestock products.
  3. Soil organic matter must be restored to allow sustainable yields to increase.” Charles Benbrook, Rebuttal Remarks

It is an even greater feat when we take into account the demographics of The Economist and the fact that almost every view represented is anti-, except for Mr. Benbrook’s. Get on over there and vote, and participate in this fascinating discussion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *