Genetic Modification and
It is ironic that in opposing genetic engineering of plants, the advocates of organic agriculture are inhibiting the process of creating more disease-resistant varieties of crops that would facilitate using fewer pesticides. In the United States, where public opposition to genetically modified crops is largely limited to environmental groups, their increased planting has led to a decrease in the use of pesticides (Gaskell et al. 1999; ERS 2000). Disease-resistant varieties for nonprimary crops are also essential for developing countries. Some of these crops, “native to the subtropics or tropics,” have an “untapped potential for producing food, fiber, fuel, and medicine” (Moffat 1999b, 370).
An argument has also arisen that the new genetically modified crops will displace traditional varieties, adversely affecting biodiversity and making agriculture more susceptible to a form of disease plague. With or without biotechnology, farmers throughout the world will continue to turn to higher yielding, more disease-resistant varieties of crops, which means that through time, “antique” or “traditional” varieties will no longer be cultivated and in that sense, biodiversity will be further “eroded.”
England had a “media feeding frenzy” over genetically modified (GM) foods, with demands for a moratorium on their use until their safety could be guaranteed. Much of the original fear of the genetically modified foods was based on an unpublished study. Nineteen of Britain's most eminent scientists, all Fellows of the Royal Society, were critical of the study and the media uproar and “called for the use of peer review rather than public opinion to judge scientific results.” They added that “it is a dangerous mistake … to assume that all statements claiming to be scientific can be taken at face value” (ScienceScope 1999). Scientific arguments seem to have had little effect in calming the opposition.