Late last year, the government of the “Big Island” of Hawaii decided to ban growing of genetically modified (GM) crops. The decision represented the latest in a long assault on GM crops by uninformed pseudo-liberals, one that has continued unabated in recent years, in spite of the total implosion of the “scientific” justification of their case.
Adding hypocritical insult to injury, the island’s papaya industry, which makes extensive use of GM strains, has been exempted from the law. It is one further demonstration of the moral bankruptcy of policies designed to stifle businesses except for favored interests of the state. The exemption serves only to transform a foolish and misguided law into a crony-capitalist farce.
Mayor Billy Kenoi told reporters after the vote:
“Our community has a deep connection and respect for our land, and we all understand we must protect our island and preserve our precious natural resources. We are determined to do what is right for the land because this place is unlike any other in the world.”
The mayor echoed a sentiment shared by many people in the United States and around the world, a belief that GMOs in some way adulterate the natural crops and poison humans when consumed. Yet there is no substantive evidence at all that these sorts of crops do any of the nasty things of which they are accused. There is no evidence, apart from one discredited, and now retracted, paper that GM foods cause any undue health issues. Yet more than just harmless, GM foods have been absolutely critical to preventing famine in the developing world. Genetically modified dwarf wheat, for example, saved India from perpetual food crisis.
This rejection of hard science seems to stem from an unconsidered adherence to a kind of naturalistic fallacy (a naturalistic fallacy arises when one mistakes what is for what ought to be). GM opponents claim that the world is natural and good just the way it is, and that alteration would in some way be a harmful adulteration. It is the very same reasoning that drives opposition to programs like fracking, which appear to be aggressive assaults on unspoiled Nature. In the narrative created by the fallacy, humans become the aggressive polluter.
But that is not how the world actually is. We often see states of affairs, both within societies and in the environment around us that could be altered for the betterment of all. In the case of GM crops, beyond merely feeding the teeming billions of human beings who would have starved with only “natural” crops to rely on, scientists have helped make crops healthier and more nutrient-rich.
The fact is this: humans have been genetically modifying plants and animals for millennia. Just because it was done more incrementally, and out in the field instead of in a laboratory, does not make it any less of a modification. The scientific method as applied to crop-rearing offers the same boons it has to all natural sciences, namely made it more rigorous and more conducive to human progress.
In order to maintain our own standards of living, and to help the people of the developing world survive at all, we need GM foods. With no demonstrated downsides and a cornucopia of benefits, it is astonishing that so many liberals want to see them destroyed. Let’s not surrender to the liberal scare tactics.