Defense of biotechnology is personal

Several weeks ago I found myself in a very uncomfortable position — behind the microphone rather than in front of it taking notes and snapping photos for articles in Western Farm Press.

Good friend and Northern California UCCE Farm Advisor Doug Munier is a persuasive fellow and convinced me to speak at the California Weed Science Society meeting in Sacramento. He asked that I give an overview of Roundup Ready technology since I have written thousands of words on the subject. It was enjoyable tracing the history of the technology. As an oral presentation, it was not easy, especially as the leadoff speaker in a session replete with highly respected weed scientists from California and elsewhere. However, I could not pass up the opportunity — once again — to talk about biotechnology and the controversy that has swirled about it.

My passion on the subject often gets me in trouble and bewilders my wife. Georgann proofs most of my commentaries and often says that someone is going to paint a large white X on the roof of our home so they won’t miss.

I admit to taking a junkyard dog approach to those I call whackos. I also acknowledge that there are intelligent, educated scientists who have raised issues about GMO technology. However, most of the controversy in the media has been generated by radicals who simply do not want to accept sound science. They are self-serving socialists more interested in halting technology than even considering its benefits. Sadly, they have had far too much influence on the general public and that may be the most troubling element of the controversy. I am shocked when people spout some of the garbage they read in newspapers.


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When I started writing about biotechnology, I researched it thoroughly. I discovered that scientists were trying to use it to increase the amount of insulin in the whites of chicken eggs to benefit insulin-dependent diabetics. All of a sudden biotechnology became personal. My granddaughter has been a Type 1 diabetic since she was seven years old. She is now 24 and has struggled with controlling her diabetes for a long time.

When I read about the insulin research, I decided to vigorously defend biotechnology — supporting unbiased men and women who are using it for the betterment of mankind.

Radicals who attack biotechnology are no different than those who opposed smallpox and polio vaccines. They do not deserve respect or even acknowledgement.

I will always support the right of dedicated scientists to pursue biotechnology or other scientific endeavors to meet the challenges mankind faces; from health issues to figuring out how to feed the 9 billion people who will be on this earth in 2050.

I trust those who have already made this a better place to live and have faith that others will follow with the same motivation.

I get emotional when I talk about the issue. I did when I spoke in Sacramento, despite my best efforts not to choke up. It was not very scholarly for such an educational gathering as a professional society. It’s a passion I find hard to contain. It’s personal. 

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