Do you know the name Owen Paterson? Probably not, but you should.
Mr. Paterson was the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs in Great Britain from 2012 to 2014. Mr. Paterson is largely credited with negotiating the successful passage of the European Union’s new position on genetically modified crops. The new law essentially allows all member states of the EU to decide themselves whether they want to allow GMOs. (More on this topic later…) Given some of the EU’s more radical anti-GMO tendencies, this is a huge deal. Mr. Paterson is quite the champion for biotechnology.
Mr. Paterson gave a speech (very, very early) this morning to the ISAAA media conference in Pretoria, South Africa…. And he rocked it! I can’t help but share some of basics from the speech.
Mr. Paterson’s speech focused on the “green blob” – or the conglomerate of European governments, humanitarians, and environmentalist organizations that talk about helping people in poor countries and saving the environment. In reality, the blob could care less about poor people and, instead, waste time and energy embracing inefficient agricultural production methods. Mr. Paterson’s speech focused on 4 myths that the blob like to throw around when, in reality, they couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Mr. Paterson’s 4 myths include:
Myth #1: The implication that farmers are stupid and pawns of the biotech seed companies. We pay more for GMO seeds when, quite frankly, we’d be better off rejecting them.
To that myth, Mr. Paterson stated:
A recent analysis of previous major studies – conducted by researchers at Germany’s Göttingen University, found that globally since their introduction almost two decades ago, biotech crops have increased crop yield overall by 22 per cent, increased farmer profits by 68 per cent, and reduced chemical pesticide use by 37 per cent.
Myth #2: Going organic is better for the environment than biotechnology.
I’m fairly certain everyone can guess my thoughts on this one! Mr. Paterson’s response, in part, stated:
In other words, modern agriculture – with its GMOs, nitrogen fertilizer and modern pesticides – has probably done more to save natural habitat, support biodiversity, and save endangered species than all the other environmental, NGO and UN conservation activities put together.
Myth #3: The myth that biotech crops are unsafe to eat.
Once again, the myth is turned on its head: it’s not GMOs, but the anti-GMO Green Blob that is the real danger to human health.
Myth #4: Biotechnology is good for farmers; bad for consumers.
Mr. Paterson gave multiple examples of the consumer benefits of biotech, including safer potatoes and non-browning apples. He also said: “I count increased protection of wild lands by focusing production sustainably, and cheaper food, as being fundamentally important consumer benefits.”
Finally, Mr. Paterson ended by lambasting Greenpeace for its position on Golden Rice. He suggested that next time Greenpeace asks for a donation to help save the polar bears and whales, ask them about the children that are going blind due, in part, to their actions against biotechnology. He also called the European Union governments out for taking anti-science positions.
As you can tell, I was a big fan of this speech and Mr. Paterson’s statements. I will definitely share some more of his comments and speech highlights, but I definitely wanted to bring the basics to you right away!