Who's Afraid Of Genetic Engineering?
By Jimmy Carter
Imagine a country placing such rigid
restrictions on imports that people
could not get vaccines and insulin.
And imagine those same restrictions
being placed on food products as
well as on laundry detergent and
As far-fetched as it sounds, many
developing countries and some
industrialized ones may do just that
early next year. They are being
misled into thinking that genetically
modified organisms, everything from
seeds to livestock, and products made from them are
potential threats to the public health and the
The new import proposals are being drafted under the
auspices of the biodiversity treaty, an agreement
168 nations at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de
treaty's main goal is to protect plants and animals
In 1996, nations ratifying the treaty asked an ad hoc
determine whether genetically modified organisms could
threaten biodiversity. Under pressure from
and with no supporting data, the team decided that any
organism could potentially eliminate native plants and
If approved, these regulations would be included in a
international agreement early next year.
But the team has exceeded its mandate. Instead of
the agreement to genetic modifications that might
biodiversity, the members are also pushing to regulate
shipments of all genetically modified organisms and
products made from them.
This means that grain, fresh produce, vaccines,
breakfast cereals, wine, vitamins-the list is
require written approval by the importing nation
could leave the dock.
How could regulations intended to protect species and
conserve their genes have gotten so far off track? The
cause is antibiotechnology environmental groups that
exaggerate the risks of genetically modified organisms
ignore their benefits. This is misleading. In fact,
of years virtually all food has been improved
In the past 40 years, farmers worldwide have
modified crops to be more nutritious as well as
insects, diseases and herbicides. Scientific
developed in the 1980s and commonly referred to as
engineering allow us to give plants additional useful
Genetically engineered cotton, corn and soybean seeds
became available in the United States in 1996,
those planted on my family farm.
The risks of modern genetic engineering have been
by technical experts at the National Academy of
and the World Bank. They concluded that we can predict
environmental effects by reviewing past experiences
plants and animals produced through selective
None of these products of selective breeding have
either the environment or biodiversity.
And their benefits are legion. By increasing crop
genetically modified organisms reduce the constant
clear more land for growing food. Seeds designed to
drought and pests are especially useful in tropical
where crop losses are often severe. Other genetically
modified organisms covered by the proposed regulations
essential research tools in medical, agricultural and
If imports like these are regulated unnecessarily, the
losers will be the developing nations. Their countries
suffer greatly for years to come. It is crucial that
the propaganda of extremist groups before it is too
Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States.
-- "New Generation Cropping Systems": the cutting edge of sustainable agriculture http://www.cedarmeadowfarm.com Steve Groff Cedar Meadow Farm 679 Hilldale Rd Holtwood PA 17532 USA Ph. 717-284-5152
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