Ag biotechnology being held hostage by only selfish few

Monsanto is dumping its line of genetically modified potatoes, largely because McDonald's Corp. buckled to eco-terrorist extortion.

Herbicide resistant sugar beets and lettuce are ready for growers to plant. However, no one will plant them, despite economic and environmental benefits.

Roundup Ready lettuce could replace a carcinogestic herbicide used on 65 percent of the lettuce grown in California and Arizona. Whether lettuce growers like it or not, the herbicide is on an EPA hit list, and its future is at best tenuous. If its registration is pulled tomorrow, growers would hire hand-hoe crews by the hundreds because no lettuce producer will touch biotechnology.

Beet growers will not grow sugar beets because the nation's candy industry has been told don't even go there if you want sell us sugar for our candy bars.

Soon to come on the market is herbicide-resistant wheat. Countries now will not buy wheat from states where noxious weeds may be in it — weeds controlled with Roundup in herbicide-resistant wheat. The questions is if the wheat is weed-free because it is herbicide-resistant, will those same countries reject it because it is genetically-modified. Talk about Catch 22.

At the recent Western Society of Weed Science annual meeting, a session on this new wheat destined for market in 2003 packed the room. Monsanto reps said the biotechnology giant is getting assurance from major buyers of U.S. wheat they would accept the wheat. What about the countries who will not? Segregation? The recent StarLink fiasco make it obvious that it would be impossible.

Controversy and consternation continues swirling around ag biotechnology despite a survey by a North Carolina State University sociologist showing Americans are not concerned about genetically-modified food.

Dr. Tom Hoban surveyed 500 U.S. adults in the wake of the StarLink/Taco shell fiasco. More than half of those surveyed, 53 percent, were aware of the taco shell recall, but no one avoided taco shells or chips after the contamination story hit the press.

“Biotechnology is simply not an issue of concern with the vast majority of U.S. consumers,” Hoban said. “In fact, most U.S. consumers are looking forward to the benefits biotechnology will provide in the future, especially in medicine.”

If there is no scientific basis and minimal objection to ag biotechnology, then why is this vital new technology crawling forward at a snail's pace? One reason is the continuing, avoidable blunders like StarLink.

Another is that that corporations like McDonald's, Gerber and so many others have buckled to extortionist eco-terrorists.

Ironically, these corporations are successful because of “genetic modification” of foods. Where would Gerber be without decades of genetic modification of fruits and vegetables to ward off diseases and improve the nutritional value in the products they process for children and infants?

Perhaps the most ironic is McDonald's and its Ronald McDonald Houses. McDonald's has benefited millions in supporting these havens for parents of critically ill children. I know from personal involvement that there are not enough words of praise for McDonald's support of these facilities.

However, the same biotechnology used in potatoes McDonald's refuses to sell in its restaurants is part of the science saving children daily in hospitals served by those McDonald Houses. There is something sadly wrong with contradiction.

Agriculture is being held hostage by a very, very few selfish and politically motivated groups and individuals. It must end with even more activism from the agricultural community.

Tell McDonald's and Gerber why their positions are contrary to science and do not have the support of the majority of Americans. Explain the issues to your urban neighbors and ask them to do the same. When beneficial science sits on the shelf because of the selfish actions of a few, it is morally wrong.

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