The genetic revolution has offered more promise than substance, except in agriculture, where it has brought profound benefits to farmers and consumers for more than a decade. More nutritious food is now produced with less environmental costs because genetically modified crops require almost no pesticides. Vitamin-enhanced crops and foods are helping to reduce malnutrition in parts of the developing world, and a wave of biopharmaceuticals is being developed. Yet, for all its achievements and promise, agricultural biotechnology is under intense fire from advocacy groups warning of “Frankenfoods” and fanning fear of a “corporate takeover” of agriculture by biotech firms. Mired in a rancorous trade and cultural war between Europe and the United States and inflamed by a politicized media, this technology remains dramatically underutilized, with particularly tragic consequences for millions of starving people in Africa and other poverty-stricken regions.
In Let Them Eat Precaution, authors from the United States and the United Kingdom deconstruct these controversies and offer solutions to the current impasse. They address both the risks and rewards of genetic modification; the differing paths that debate over genetic manipulation has followed in Europe and the developing world, in contrast to the United States; the debate’s impact on the commercial realities of companies’ developing new products; and ways to foster more constructive discussion of the costs and benefits of genetic modification to bring about more rational and internationally coordinated public policy.
The authors argue that an effective communications strategy focused on the current and potential benefits that these technologies provide is critical if we hope to exploit fully these technological advances. Proponents of biotechnology must accept the fact that sound science is only one criterion for public policymaking and speak to the broader set of concerns—political, social, moral, and economic—that this debate engenders.
Praise for Let Them Eat Precaution
“Let Them Eat Precaution does a superb job of educating the reading public on the basic issues of genetically modified foods. The distinguished authors provide a devastating point-by-point refutation of the anti-GMO activists’ false claims, providing a reasoned, scientifically grounded perspective on this critical issue. As the Marie Antoinette title implies, though the affluent may be leading the charge against GMO foods, it is the poor who are most likely to suffer the effects of activists that falsely claim to speak for the world’s poor.”
—Thomas DeGregori, professor of economics, University of Houston,
and author of Origins of the Organic Agriculture Debate
“A well-funded global antibiotech activist campaign, abetted by European Union regulators more interested in political pandering than good science, threatens to starve millions of the world’s poorest people by denying them access to environmentally safer and higher yielding biotech crops. The distinguished experts assembled in Let Them Eat Precaution make it abundantly clear that humanity’s health and well-being depend on innovation, not a technological freeze in the name of the “precautionary principle,” which demands perfect safety from all new technologies. The contributors carefully document not only the policy challenges facing agricultural biotechnology but the real benefits—from a massive reduction in pesticide use to a slew of new pharmaceuticals and vitamin-enriched foods—that may never come to fruition if antiscience advocacy groups prevail in this battle of ideas.”
—Ronald Bailey, author of Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case
for the Biotech Revolution and science correspondent for Reason magazine
“This fine volume fills a very useful role in the ongoing debate over the use of biotechnology in foods and pharmaceuticals. Let Them Eat Precaution covers every aspect of the issue, catalogs what is known about GM crops, and helps us understand the ideological basis for opposition to the use of this life-saving technology. The antibiotechnology campaigns are denying food to starving millions—a high price to pay for ideology.”
—Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Mo.