INSIGHTS: GMOS AREN’T SCARIER THAN DINOSAURS
“Jurassic World” has received a lot of criticism, from paleontologists who point out that the film ignores new discoveries about dinosaurs (many had feathers!), to feminists who point out the impracticality of our heroine traipsing through the jungle in high heels. Still, the film is smashing box office records with its cautionary tale of what happens when humans tinker with nature and create a genetically modified dinosaur.
For most viewers, seeing Chris Pratt battle a genetically modified dinosaur in “Jurassic World” is no more realistic than seeing him battle an extraterrestrial super-villain alongside his talking raccoon sidekick in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” To environmental activists, however, “Jurassic World” is a warning to movie-goers about what they call the “real-life risks associated with genetic engineering.”
In the real world, scientists and farmers are using genetic modification to safely tweak crops, known as GMOs, that can feed more people using fewer resources and pesticides. Although activists claim that these foods are more dangerous to your health than “juggernaut dinosaurs,” scientists haven’t found any such risks.
A recent research review of over 1,700 independent studies on genetically modified technology published in Critical Reviews in Biotechnology concluded, “The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops.”
More than 2,000 studies from around the globe, funded by a wide array of organizations, have analyzed genetically modified foods but none have found the technology poses any health risks. All of this research has led major global public health and regulatory bodies —from the World Health Organization to the European Food Safety Authority to U.S. Food and Drug Administration — to conclude that the genetically modified foods on the market are safe to eat. And before any new genetically modified food is allowed on the market, it is tested rigorously to determine the effect on our health and the environment’s health.
Despite the global interest in genetically modified foods and millions of dollars in research funding spent in recent decades, there has not been a single credible study showing a link between GMOs and human health problems published in a peer-reviewed journal. Instead, environmental activists cling to widely discredited and retracted studies to support their anti-GMO beliefs.
It’s easy for activists to scare consumers — even without solid research to back up their claims. Most Americans don’t even know what GMO stands for or how ubiquitous GMOs are in our food supply (93 percent of U.S. corn and 94 percent of soybeans). But polling shows a growing number of consumers have heard activists’ anti-GMO messages and assume erroneously these foods aren’t as safe to eat. That’s why the push to mandate special labels on GMOs isn’t as simple as “Just Label It.”
Unless those labels also explain that research shows genetically modified foods are nutritionally equivalent to their conventional counterparts and their safety is widely supported by scientists, they don’t tell consumers anything useful. Instead, they simply feed the activist narrative that these foods are “different.”
Though environmentalists hope that differentiation will serve more as a warning label to consumers, different doesn’t mean bad. Genetic modification has already allowed farmers to dramatically increase their yield per acre — using less water, pesticides and energy to produce food.
It has created vitamin-enhanced rice that could help stem blindness in developing countries. And it has created apples and potatoes that resist browning and bruising, a significant development in the quest to cut down on food waste.
As the world’s population grows and the Earth’s climate changes, scientists are working on valuable ways to ensure our food supply remains safe, stable and plentiful for future generations.
ON THE ECONOMY: THE BALLAD OF THE GREEN BERETS
Fighting soldiers from the sky. Fearless men who jump and die. Men who mean just what they say, the brave men of the Green Beret. Silver wings upon their chest, these are men, America’s best. One hundred men will test today, but only three win the Green Beret. When Staff Sargent Barry Sadler (who wrote the song with Robin Moore) debuted this song on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1966, the country was in the midst of the War in Vietnam. The lyrics of the song were written in honor of Green Beret James Gabriel, Jr., who was executed by the Viet Cong while on a training mission.
I bring up the war in Vietnam to juxtapose it with the current world situation. I read in The Economist magazine this morning that Islamic militant groups are operating with almost complete discretion in as many as a dozen countries including: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Add to this nearly every country in the Middle East, most of Central Asia, western China, France and the United States, and it seems to me that the world is in many ways at war, and that this war is quite similar to the one fought by the United States in Vietnam.
When the French left Indochina following their defeat at The Battle of Dien Bien Phu to Vo Nguyen Giap’s Viet Minh forces, American and other western troops began advising and training the army of the southern portion of the country. South and North Vietnam were created in 1954 under the treaty granting independence to all of Indochina and over time intensified as the South was threatened by both invasion and guerrilla (or terrorist) action sponsored by the North.
American involvement peaked in the late 1960s at 550,000 troops in country, and in January of 1968, the North Vietnamese Army launched the Tet Offensive, a massive operation against military, civilian and political facilities across the whole of South Vietnam. While the initial offensive was quickly defeated, the North continued wave after wave of attacks until April of 1969. The result was a stunning defeat for the North with over 181,149 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops killed during 1968 alone. In other words, the North Vietnamese Army was utterly destroyed by US and allied forces during Tet and the following year, yet America still lost Vietnam to what was essentially a state sponsored terrorist insurgency (the Viet Cong).
A similar form of state sponsored terrorism is going on throughout the world today. Unlike Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, the current administration is not fighting these insurgencies militarily and is participating in peace talks with Iran, the largest sponsor of the insurgencies. The North Vietnamese did not take over Vietnam until the United States pulled out troops, and the same can be said for ISIS in Iraq. America signed a treaty with the Vietnamese in Paris in January of 1973, with the Nixon administration facing tremendous pressure to withdraw from the war. Consequently, the U.S. brought great diplomatic pressure upon their South Vietnamese ally to sign the peace treaty. In the end, the Paris Peace Accords had little practical effect on the conflict, and were routinely flouted by both the North Vietnamese and the Saigon government. North Vietnamese military forces gradually built up their military infrastructure in the areas they controlled and two years later were in position to launch the successful offensive that ended South Vietnam’s status as an independent country on April 30 1975.
While nobody can be certain if the same thing will happen between the United States and Iran, it is certain that guerrilla groups operating around the world will see this in association with the pullout from Iraq as similar behavior and will likely feel that the US would not come to the aid of allies if they are attacked. From an economic standpoint, this means that in spite of American reticence to participate in armed conflict over the past 6 years, it is likely that armed conflict will not go away. A major attack on oil installations in the Middle East or North Africa, a nuclear or chemical attack on a major western city, be it in the Middle East, Europe or America, and the direct and indirect cost of providing security and intelligence against extremists both in the US and abroad will continue to cost the economy in the same fashion as a shooting war. In economic terms a billion dollars spent on unproductive security is no different than a billion dollars spent on war, and these costs are continuing to drag down productivity and economic growth both in North America and in Europe. Sometimes it takes fighting soldiers from the sky to eliminate or contain problems. Disregarding problems and making treaties that nobody intends to enforce will often lead to higher costs in the end.
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