Tuesday, 27 October 2009

When your heroes let you down.

So far in my forays into the world of skepticism and science based reasoning, I have come across many things I would like to write about.  Future topics will include, I hope,  space exploration and its value to human kind.  Something where science is actually making a difference to human living.  Some of the experiments being undertaken outside of the constraints of the earth's gravity will impact on us as humans directly.  The Urugan experiment is establishing an permanent hurricane and natural disaster monitoring station aboard the ISS which will actively monitor areas at risk in real time and provide "eye in the sky" feed back to those on the ground so that loss of life can maybe be limited at least, if not altogether avoided.  Science is working in real situations that we can see benefits for and because of the scale of it, although relatively small physically, the fact that it is a truley international affair with input from the US, Russia, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agencies and recently Brazil.   

Whilst the ISS is getting on with things with little opposition, complaints have mostly been about colossal budgetary deficits and the inability of Russia to deliver a module or two here and there, other areas of science continue to battle wild accusations and exaggerated claims while they get on with the same business of saving lives and improving survival rates of vulnerable children in areas where it is difficult to grow crops.   Unfortunately I am talking about Greenpeace's stance on Genetically Modified crops.  To quote the UK head, Lord Melchet, when asked if Greenpeace's stance would relax subject to further scientific research and improved procedures, his reply was - " It (Greenpeace's view) is a permanent and definite and complete opposition (to GM Organisms) based on a view that there will always be major uncertainties. It is the nature of the technology, indeed it is the nature of science, that there will not be any absolute proof".  Disappointing to say the least.   I wonder if any Greenpeace supporters with, or who have children with severe nut allergies will stick by them should the GM hypo-allergenic peanut become a reality.

I won't go into the intricacies of GM food production because it is neither my place nor do I completely understand the specific science.  But I do know that we have effectively being doing it for hundreds of years by cross breeding plants and there is no man eating triffid that I know of.  Seriously, there are legitimate claims and concerns regarding modern agriculture, but I have to say I am satisfied that the world has in place a stringent enough regulatory system to deal with it.  Apart from the potential amount of lives that could be saved, thousands of tonnes of herbicides are NOT being used.  

It seems that Greenpeace have shot themselves in the foot a bit here. Having such an inflexible, static stance, leaving no room for new evidence to influence their campaigning seems an intrinsically weak position to argue from, leaving aside the fact that rigourous regulation of GM foods and crops IS in place already. Maybe they also buy into the organic food myth. They seem to be suscepible to a bit of woo, it wouldn't surprise me that they have persueded many to unwittingly protest against the life saving crops that can breath under water by extending a snorkel like straw up wards. How can they face themselves in the morning when they look at starvation ravaged villages. Do they think they bring comfort to those poor souls when they are screaming against GM crops dressed in a chemical suit. Scare tactics are in poor taste in this instance.

The pro's seem to outweigh the cons by a long way in my eyes.  Shame on the stubborn stance of GREENPEACE.


1 comment:

Marmaduke Dando Hutchings said...

I was always against GM from the start, but I realised that my fears were more reactionary than based in science. With good reason too, especially when you have companies like Monsanto pushing the GM agenda...it's not a side you naturally want to be on.

However, like with all decisions, they should be based on hard evidence, and the lesser of greater evils. That really is disappointing response from them though.

The bigger picture though, which i'm sure Greenpeace will not admit to thinking about, is that with more food available...population will be sustained and certainly increase, making the world an even more environmentally ruined place.