I have enjoyed Discover Magazine, which writes about science, technology and the future. The cover of the current issue was titled, "Crop Wars -- How Activists Are Halting Genetically Modified Crop Research in Europe." Anti-GMO activists have destroyed private crop research fields so that seed companies have not been able to produce GMO research precedent to production. One of the activists said, "We had to go out into the fields and do it in a very public way, so the population wouldn't see us as criminals. Hundreds of police show up, and it's interesting for the press too."
The criminal act of destroying private property in Europe enjoys some public support. One result is that there were 395 million acres of "biotech crops" in 2011 but only 282,911 of them were in Europe. Discover Magazine wrote, "Even though decades of research haven't turned up any conclusive evidence that genetically modified plants pose a health risk, barely a quarter of Europeans are willing to see them become part of the food supply. Many see no need: The continent's population is expected to peak in just 25 years, and dwindle after that.
But Europe is an exception. The world is fast approaching a breaking point. Already at 7 billion, the global population is expected to increase by 2 billion to 3 billion in the next 40 years before leveling off. With much of the world's prime farmland already under the plow, there's not much wiggle room to feed those extra mouths. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that by 2050, the world will need to produce 70 percent more food, including an additional billion tons of cereals, to keep up with population growth.
"Anti-GMO food activists in the U.S. don't stage late-night guerrilla raids, vandalizing farms swathed in hazmat gear. Instead, they're more likely to patrol the corridors of power in sport jackets, lobbying lawmakers for oversight or suing bio-techs in court.
"An outspoken anti-GMO activist who owns an organic farm and dairy in central Germany, asked whether science would ever be able to prove to him transgenic crops were safe. He said I was missing the point. It's a social question, he told me. What kind of agriculture do we want?"
Ninty-three percent of what is grown in the U.S. is now GMO. The U.S. is also the leader in stacked traits. The real problem with bio technophobia is that after many years, many benefits have been evidenced by adoption of GMO technology but no damage has resulted. Crop bio-technology has to this point been held harmless with no regulatory or science-based evidence of real harm. There are cursory suspicions embellished by those with an unbalanced view, but no science-based evidence exists that anyone on the planet has done more than sneeze over GMOs. The benefits are being counted in reduced impact and higher productivity that shows promise in continuing to feed the world's growing population, which is something plainly Europe has absolutely no interest in.
Here in lies the next problem. Europe's economy is stagnate and bio-technophobia is just one of many such constraints that they gird their economic growth with. The rejection of technological advancement and regulatory suffocation will throttle any economy down. Why would any scientist work in Europe? They are culturally pre-disposed to revisit the dark ages. Just as the anti-GMO activist so transparently put it, the rejection of GMO crops is ideological and not science based.
Trade rules, however, are based upon science, so this is presenting Europe with a problem in the food sector that had them adopt the "precautionary principle, which basically says that the jury on science is always out and can be kept from ever rendering verdicts allowing government to intervene with ideological regulation. The effort being made by the Obama administration to forge an FTA with Europe is made futile because of the "precautionary principle."
The future is in South America, which is a slow but accelerating adopter of GMO crop technology; and in Asia, where the world's greatest growth of an emerging consumer class is hungry for calories and can't afford food bio-technophobia.
Europe will one day look back at how foolish their rejection of applied crop science proved to be. Farmers there would like to grow more bio-tech crops but they are heavily subsided by their government, in part to compensate them for not growing them. Farm subsidies are the largest budget item for the EU. If the cost of food in Europe was applied globally, the billion lives saved by Norman Borlaug and the green revolution would be sacrificed. It appears to also be part of their ideology not to care.
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments, Inc. author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet. CommStock Investments is a registered CTA, as well as an introducing brokerage.