Cattle Economics

What Price Does The World Pay For Shunning Technology?


Table of Contents:

The anti-everything crowd is also using the Precautionary Principle – the fact that nothing on this earth is 100% assured – to stir up fear inside and outside of governments.

Other than potential entrees, there seems little linking golden rice, genetically modified salmon, and beef from a steer implanted with growth hormones. In fact, all are casualties of something called the Precautionary Principle.

There is no commonly accepted definition. However, presenters at the annual meeting of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) explained it is being used more frequently by regulators everywhere to mean proving something 100% safe for the environment, livestock and people — period.

As such, the anti-everything crowd is also using the principle — the fact that nothing on this earth is 100% assured — to stir up fears inside and outside of governments.

The European Union (EU) began banning hormone-treated beef in 1989, “based entirely on the Precautionary Principle,” Mark Walton explains. He is chief marketing officer for Recombinetics, an innovator in genome editing.

You may be less familiar with golden rice, developed by Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer in the 1990s. Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness and death in children, and affects millions of kids every year in developing countries. Since rice is the primary staple of many folks living in those developing countries, Potrykus and Beyer figured out how to genetically modify rice to produce betacarotene (pro vitamin A). The developers never intended to profit from this. They donated the technology to resource-poor countries where Vitamin A deficiency is a problem. Today, golden rice is only evaluated at research institutes in a couple of countries.

Interested in more beef news? Subscribe NOW to Cow-Calf Weekly for the latest industry research and news straight your inbox.

Greenpeace and like-minded organizations continue to engage in a fear-mongering campaign that makes governments and consumers skittish about golden rice, though reams of data prove it is safe.

Keep in mind that approved genetically modified crops first introduced 50 years ago have never yielded a safety problem.

Discuss this Blog Entry 11

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on May 9, 2014

The hidden agenda in 'the precautionary principle' is the Luddite experience by which new technologies cause creative destruction, some new jobs being created, new leisure being created, and OLD JOBS being made obsolete.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on May 9, 2014

Study finds antibiotic-resistant genes widespread in nature.
The Washington Post (5/9, Dennis) reports that a new study published in Current Biology says environmental samples from all around the world reveal “how widespread antibiotic-resistant genes are in nature.” Researchers found antibiotic-resistant genes “in 71 environments, from human feces to English prairies.” While most of the genes “are benign, with little potential for making the leap to animals and humans,” that does occasionally happen.

The New York Times (5/9, Zimmer, Subscription Publication) reports that last week, the WHO said antibiotic resistance “is now a major threat to public health across the entire planet.” The study found that “antibiotic-resistance genes were not just the product of modern medicine, but an ancient part of nature.” TIME (5/8, Park) reported on its website that researchers led by Joseph Nesme, a graduate student at the University of Lyon in France, found antibiotic resistant genes “present in locations like Arctic permafrost as well as in waste water and indoor air. The fact that the genes even appear in bugs located in remote locations suggests that they may develop even without antibiotics.”

on May 12, 2014

This article seems to paint opposition to GMOs as some sort of 'elitist' move by a fortunate few...I've been working for over 17 years in Malawi, Africa on issues of nutrition and food security, and can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. Here in Malawi, Africa we face high levels of nutritional deficiencies including Vitamin A and iron. We also have a nutritional 'stunting' rate which affects 47% of the nation's children under the age of 5. These problems, however, have nothing to do with a lack of access to genetically engineered crops, but rather with an incessant push towards the monocropped production of maize (corn). Despite the potential for year-round and seasonal production of nutritious food crops, many local farmers have been encouraged to sacrifice diversity in favor of a once-a-year harvest of maize. Despite several consecutive years of surplus maize harvests, our malnutrition rates have remained steady. There are literally hundreds of local foods that farmers and families could be utilizing to eliminate nutritional deficiencies, but instead we find the nation's fields sitting in a state of 'food deserts' for 11 months out of the year. Now, as the limited nutritional nature of monocropped agriculture is taking its toll, we find people turning to genetic engineering to try to adapt the world's plants and animals to very unhealthy and chemical-based systems of production. There is no need, whatsoever, to genetically engineer a nutrient like Vitamin A into plants which it does not naturally occur. Just grow and eat nutritious foods! As we move further and further away from natural solutions, we find nations, like Malawi, setting up expensive--often donor funded--programs to fortify unhealthy foods like cooking oil and sugar with Vitamin A. This is not a sustainable or a healthy approach to good nutrition. Solutions exist, but we need to stop promoting the idea that all the world's nutrition should come from a limited handful of artificially engineered crops.

chenhalljr (not verified)
on May 13, 2014

Have the people in Malawi not been shown how easy it is to raise a garden ? I understand they may not all have access to land but surely there is some solution such as a community garden.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 20, 2014

Thank you for explaining. Well done.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 13, 2014

The reason that Golden Rice is rejected by some is because it is a stupid product. The person that wrote about their experiences in Malawi was much more elegant in explaining it but here is the simple version for the simpletons that think it is a good idea. Humans need vitamin A to be healthy. All native diets the world over of healthy people have a dietary source of vitamin A. Third World nutrition compromised populations need access to whatever grows natively and is part of their food culture and provides vitamin A. This is a sustainable solution with very little profit opportunity for first world technology companies. Put big money behind a solution and there will be big profit for those promoting it. Simply put golden rice was invented to make money not to help people. It intended to not be sustainable by design just like all the other GM crops. Ask why, when given the Vitamin A puzzle to solve, someone in big ag didn't come up with say a better sweet potato?

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 19, 2014

If the crops were there from the start they would not have a vitamin deficiency. Again you can't solve their problems so you want to blame someone or something. If all the ills of the world can be cured by natural remedies they would have been cured long ago.

Jan de Jong (not verified)
on May 13, 2014

What does seem strange is that some companies succeed in obtaining FDA approval rapidly: some say without the requisite tests having been carried out. Some may go as far as to say that some companies have a hand in writing US laws which govern the industries in which they operate...
While the unknown effects of GE products may not have been fully quantified by know (see the book "Seeds of Destruction") some advances sure have been great for mankind. Let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater, but also remember that self interest and greasing of palms are surely part of the approval process.

James McGrann (not verified)
on May 13, 2014

Recall all the European movement started as a trade restriction to protect their agriculture. It had nothing to do with food safety. This attitude continues today.

W.E. (not verified)
on May 13, 2014

Calling people who are cautionary in their embrace of new technologies Luddites is like calling a fireman a terrorist.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 13, 2014

So what you are saying is prior to maize the people of Malawi were doing just fine ? Please tell me what kind of
corn can be planned and harvested in one month, you said fields sit empty for eleven months, I'll grow that the times a year.
What it really comes down to is those people can't feed themselves and you can't do it for them so you want to blame someoneor something for your and their failure.
Why don't you just use the eleven months to grow native crops. Problem solved.

Please or Register to post comments.

What's Cattle Economics?

Wes Ishmael provides tightly focused analysis and commentary on specific beef quality and marketing issues of practical importance to beef producers.


Wes Ishmael

Among the industry’s most insightful thinkers, Wes Ishmael concentrates on industry price and market perspectives for BEEF magazine. Along with his monthly “Cattle Economics” column...

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×