Science Defeats Superstition, So They Sue (1/9/2005)

The following article typifies the approach of all too many GM proponents who combine support for GM with attacks on the science of climate change and support for the war in Iraq.

Other offerings by its author, Andrew Walden, include:

The Myth of a Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

The Oracle at EI -Climate Change Computer Models Aren't Much Better Than Ancient Oracles


The Collapsing Universe of a Dark Star Mother

The latter is an attack on Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq whose anti-war vigil close to Bush's ranch has captured America's attention.

Walden may also be responsible for postings by an 'Andrew Walden' on far right and other websites, such as:

Sheehan Cheers on Terror in Iraq^

If these items are as chock full of black propaganda as the one below, then they are quite an achievement.

According to Walden's GM article, 'anti-GM activists have blocked US GM-corn food aid to starving people in Zambia in 2002 and Angola in 2004 causing thousands of deaths. This shows that anti-GM activism is deadly...'

This is totally untrue. The governments concerned decided against accepting GM food aid, despite the best efforts of the US administration to hold a GM-gun to their heads. And there is absolutely no evidence that anybody - let alone thousands - died as a consequence, although there is plenty of evidence of the truly nauseating attempts by pro-GM lobbyists to manufacture such deaths for PR purposes - see 'Fake blood on the maize'

Even so, Andrew Walden is the first GM proponent we've ever come across who's tried to manufacture deaths in Angola as well as Zambia!

Much of Walden's argument is based simply on linguistic sleight of hand. For instance, he intentionally conflates 'genetic modification', as an established term for 'genetic engineering', with 'genetic change', and then uses this as a means of dismissing concern over GM as ridiculous because 'genetic modification' is 'a natural part of the ecosystem'!

On the same basis, Walden argues that GM contamination is indistinguishable from 'a perpetual sea' of naturally occurring genetic change. That means that genetically modified algae escaping into the environment should be of no concern to anybody!

Walden also claims that 'so-called 'environmentalists'' have a hidden agenda - according to Walden, this seems to be rooted in sympathy for terrorism and a desire to destroy the economy! - but Walden's own agenda is clearly on view when he says, 'Their rhetoric retards development of Hawaii businesses'. Walden goes on, 'The anti-GM arguments boil down to 'we are afraid' and 'we don't know''. As opposed, presumably, to 'we want corporate bucks' and 'we don't give a damn'.

Science Defeats Superstition, So They Sue
Anti-GM Activists Sue to Overturn Approval of GM Algae Project in Kona
By Andrew Walden, 7 August 2005
Special from Hawaii Free Press

In a victory for common sense and solid science over fear and superstition, the Hawaii Board of Agriculture (HBOA) June 28th rejected testimony from the usual suspects and approved Mera Pharmaceuticals' application to grow genetically modified algae at the Natural Energy Laboratory in Kona.

Mera's project seeks to demonstrate the possibility of growing medically useful proteins in algae in an enclosed container. It is being tested as a possible alternative method of 'pharm-ing' -- growing modified crops to produce medicines. In spite of their protests against open-field pharm crops, no anti-GM activist was interested in supporting this alternative closed-container pharming technology.

Having failed to force their will on the HBOA, Ohana Pale Ke Ao, Kohanaiki Ohana, GMO Free Hawaii and Sierra Club-Hawaii Chapter -- represented by the lawyers of the mis-named group, 'Earthjustice' are now suing the state.

The Mera project is the first project of its type approved solely by state authorities. Usually GM projects obtain federal approvals from a variety of agencies. Thus the activist lawyers who filed their case in Circuit Court August 2 see another juicy target lost in the thickets of Hawaii's highly politicized state judiciary.

The roots of the so-called 'environmentalists' agenda is best described by Hawaii County Sierra Club Secretary Cory Harden who informed this writer in a tape recorded 2003 interview, 'It (the 9-11 attack) ties into the root causes of terrorism about people in poverty who dont have any hope. (An airplane) is the poor man's bomb. As I watched the pictures of the airplane crashing into the building I thought those people (al-Qaeda) must have felt so powerless to do that .... If Osama had as much money as the United States military‚ it would probably be a whole different world. ' So much for caring about endangered plants and animals. All the hype about health risks, hearings and procedures is about one thing - destroying the economy.

Their rhetoric retards development of Hawaii businesses which provide high-paying knowledge-based jobs and minimal environmental impact compared to other industries. The anti-GM arguments boil down to 'we are afraid' and 'we don't know.'

Anti-GM activists throw around the word 'sustainable' as if they owned it, but economic growth and technological advancement are the only 'sustainable' economy. Regression to the primitive past would mean starvation and poverty, and there is nothing 'sustainable' about that.

GM organisms have never been shown to have harmed any human anywhere. Americans have been eating GM foods for years with zero demonstrated effect.

On the other hand, anti-GM activists have blocked US GM-corn food aid to starving people in Zambia in 2002 and Angola in 2004 causing thousands of deaths. This shows that anti-GM activism is deadly -- whereas GM organisms are not even harmful.

The hypocrisy of well-fed American and European anti-GM activists blocking aid to starving Africans is documented by the Economist magazine in a September, 2002 article titled, 'Better dead than GM fed.'

Typical anti-GM rhetoric involves the phrase 'genetic contamination'. This ignores the fact that genetic modification is a natural part of the ecosystem.

As you read this, billions of viruses are in and on your body trying to genetically modify you. Thus it is fraudulent to argue that the introduction of a GM organism into the ecosystem (which Mera's project works diligently to prevent) is 'contamination'. If this can be called 'contamination', then it must be said that we are awash in a perpetual sea of naturally occurring 'contamination' from before our birth to after our death.

This 'contamination' over the millennia has led to the creation of the Earth's genetic diversity. Naturally occurring genetic modification is an engine of evolution, yet many anti-GM activists deny genetic modification is a natural process claiming it is only a laboratory product of 'intelligent design'. At the same time they oppose 'creationism'. Many opponents of GM plants are also gung-ho for GM humans in the form of embryonic stem-cell research.

Anti-GM activists call GM foods 'a threat to our food supply. ' Actually GM crops are our food supply. According to the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, in 2004 85 percent of American soybeans, 76 percent of American cotton and 45 percent of American corn are GM varieties. Other GM crops currently grown in the U.S. include canola, squash and 50 percent of the nation's papaya. As the cases of Zambia and Angola show, it is anti-GM activism which is the real threat to the food supply.

GM bacteria are used to produce chymosin -- used to curdle milk into cheese since 1990. Almost all cheeses (and all 'vegetarian' cheeses) are now made with this GM product.

GM products are increasingly important to medicine. Human insulin is produced by genetically modified bacteria. Perhaps the anti-GM activists would like to explain to diabetics that they must go back to bovine insulin?

I doubt they would get a very favorable hearing. Native Hawaiians have a higher than average incidence of diabetes. Yet GM opponents such as Momi Subiano of the Amy Greenwell Botanical Gardens quoted in the August 1 Hawaii Island Journal, claim that 'genetic manipulation of life forms are offensive and contrary to the cultural values of aloha aina' What about the value of olakino maikai (good health)? What about the value of not getting an adverse reaction to multiple daily insulin shots?

A discussion on the benefits of genetic modification of kalo (taro) is occurring amongst Hawaiian kalo growers. UH scientists have pledged to participate in the discussion before any further GM kalo development is undertaken, showing that GM development is part of agriculture rather than something that is imposed from above. Rather than destroying native kalo varieties, GM technology has the potential to stop the continuing extinctions of heritage kalo varieties which have fallen victim to fungal plant diseases for decades.

The July issue of Office of Hawaiian Affairs newspaper, Ka Wai Ola OHA, carries a front page article titled 'Kalo Controversy. ' Anti-GM activists complain of GM 'contamination' of Hawaii papaya crop. This is a perfect example of how these activists twist the facts to fit their own anti-technological dogma. Viruses spread disease by inserting their genetic material into the nucleus of the host.

Thus it was the ring spot virus that was 'genetically contaminating' Hawaiian papaya crops, killing off entire orchards. By inserting the genetic code for the coat protein of the virus, GM researchers have stopped the virus from further 'contaminating' the papaya genome. So it would be anti-GM activists who seek to continue to allow the 'genetic contamination'caused by the ring spot. Perhaps someone should sue them.

The only reason there is a papaya crop in Hawaii is because papaya varieties were modified to defend against the virus. Today, you can tell whether a papaya tree is modified or not by whether it is healthy or not. Organic 'farmers' (many with plots about the size of Hokulia lots) who complain that their crops are 'contaminated' by GM papaya varieties should know that they only have a crop because of the so-called contamination. Since genetic modification occurs naturally‚ 'including across species' a constant ongoing basis, it is time to 'modify' the definition of 'organic. '

Even marijuana is genetically modified through the use of colchicine, a chemical which induces multiple copies of the marijuana genome with the nucleus of each cell resulting in higher levels of THC, marijuana's primary active ingredient.

Efforts to ban GM crops would send medical marijuana right back into illegality. Of course anti-GM activists never smoke marijuana, so there is no irony here.

The GM revolution is a continuation of the agricultural progress of the 'Green Revolution'of the 1960s. These advances in agricultural technology are dramatically increasing productivity. They reduce the amount of acreage needed to feed the world and have allowed the human population to increase by reducing starvation and associated diseases which previously kept our numbers down. Some anti-GM activists see this as a bad thing. That is what lies at the root of their opposition to GM foods.

Andrew Walden is the publisher and editor of Hawaii Free Press, a Big Island-based newspaper. He can be reached via email at mailto:[email protected] reports the real news, and prints all editorials submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors, as long as they are written clearly. Send editorials to mailto:[email protected]


Back to the Archive