Thursday, January 17, 2008

The problem with fighting science...

The popular approach in battles of public perception is to respond with strength to any slight attack or perceived slight. Lord knows it seems to have become standard operating procedure for politics.

But the ongoing and largely manufactured "war" between environmentalism and science is, I believe, continuing along the same path as always. The relentless uncovering of new truths about the world force believers of both camps to redraw their lines in the sand. And sometimes these advances inflict collateral damage in seemingly unrelated dogma.
Arcadia says its GM rice requires less nitrogen fertiliser, and so farmers that grow it will lower their emissions of nitrous oxide - a greenhouse gas some 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Swapping global rice supply to the GM version, the company says, would save the equivalent of 50m tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, and generate £750m in carbon credits for farmers....

Rey said the potential of the technology to tackle climate change should make critics reconsider their blanket opposition to GM crops. Although GM crops are widely grown in countries such as Canada and the US, and are expanding rapidly in mainland Europe, they remain controversial, partly because they are perceived only to benefit the biotech companies and farmers.

Clare Oxborrow, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "We have never taken an absolutist position on GM crops but it's too early to say if we would accept something like this given all the concerns about safety and environmental impact of GM. We would need to have a proper debate, but at the moment we simply don't know enough about the impact of this technology or whether it would deliver." [More]
While GM supporters can of course take any position on this doctrinal quandary for the opposition, recognition that simple relentless research can quietly reveal answers that lead to reevaluating, however grudgingly, opposition that is poorly grounded in fact. For GM supporters, maybe a discreet silence would be preferable to end-zone dancing.

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