Former Greenpeace Founder Tells Asians to Embrace Ag-Biotech
Live Interview with Dr. Patrick Moore, founder and former president of Greenpeace TV Program : Newsline on Channel 11 -- Bangkok, Thailand (4 September 2000 : 9.40 pm)
. . . if you look a sustainable development in the broad sense meaning social, economic, and environmental sustainability, biotech is positive for biodiversity, that biotech is good for our social programs, and that, from an economic point of view, it will produce more food which is healthier.
Host (Sutthipong Tatpitakkul): Responding to increasing demand of food, scientists have come up with significant breakthrough of genetically modified organisms or, as we call it, GMOs, a method to improve forming productivity. All the innovation has become a controversy. Now joining us tonight is Dr. Patrick Moore, the former founding member of Greenpeace Organization to talk about this particular issue. Good evening, sir. Welcome to our program.
Dr. Patrick Moore : Good evening.
Host : How much do people know about GMOs in general?
Dr. Moore : Not enough, unfortunately. And I think it's the responsibility of governments and industries that they have failed to teach the public sufficient information. Therefore, the public is opened to misinformation and particularly scare tactics. I'm quite confident that, when the public is properly informed about biotech, they will realize that the positive benefits are far away any potential negative benefits. In fact, we don't really know of any negative aspects for GMOs but we do know of many positive ones, both socially and environmentally.
Host : You talk about we as a public in general?
Dr. Moore : No, we as people who understand GMOs and genetic engineering and scientific community, for example, the academies of science of America, Canada, Mexico, Britain, China, India and the third world academy of science, have all signed the document saying we must develop GMOs, but consciously with care, concern for the environment and concern for the social impacts. Because of cause with many changes, there are some impacts. But, when you consider the benefits of biotech for the environment, they reduce use of pesticides, the sating of soil erosion, because you don't have to plough the soil so much and also the more productivity means less forests would be cleared away to grow the same food. Then, the social benefits: increase nutrition and health. The Golden Rice, for example, which now is being introduced and which the biotech companies are giving free to the world with support from the Rockefeller Foundation in the U.S. This Golden Rice will mean that no more children will go blind from lack of vitamin A. Half a million children go blind each year in the world because vitamin A is not present in normal rice.
The Golden Rice contains vitamin A and will end this blindness. And, believe me, there are 100 or more other already-understood processes which could be delivered to improve nutrition and health in food through biotech with no negative impact on the environment and perhaps even many advantages there too. So, in many technologies, we have to say that it's good for society but it's not good for the environment or it's good for the economy but it's not good for social issues. In the biotech, we don't have to worry about this because it's good for all ways. It's good for the economy. It will make farmers wealthier, especially in developing countries where they need to grow more food per hectare. It will be good for society. It will make food more nutritious and healthier. And it will be good for the environment in reducing reliance on chemicals and in using less land to grow the same food for our 6 billion people in this world.
Host : Well, that sounds wonderful but many fear that GMOs might not be safe for human consumption. Has that been proven scientifically?
Dr. Moore : Well, the sort of way of saying in the community of people who understand these issues is no one has ever had even a stomachache from GMOs. You know, with many technologies, there are serious side effects like some medicines, for example, can have side effects and, even then, we accept them because the medicine is curing our illness. With GMOs, there are no side effects that we know. If you compare GMO foods with regular foods, there is no difference and all the food and agriculture organizations are saying and the academies of science are saying this. Of course, there may be some risks in the future if we do certain things and we don't do it correctly. There could be risks. No one knows what they are, though, at the present time. And until we find something negative, we should be just careful to make sure that we go forward with caution and that we do not just throw seeds around. We don't do that anyway. People have laboratories where they test these things and, before they are put out for commercial development, they'll go in field trials to make sure there's no obvious negative problem. And only them are what we allowed to be grown. And even then, they are monitored very carefully because people are concerned. Nobody wants to see an accident with technology. But, I'd also like to say, with biotech it's been introduced for over 10 years now.
There is no DDT of biotech. Many technologies, there have been mistakes made and even serious accidents. With biotech, we don't see it and no one can predict it so I think it's much more beneficial than the potential risks which, as I said, we know of many positive aspects, we don't know of any actual negative aspects. It's all prediction and speculation and concern.
Host : In a religious issues, some might say that scientists are playing Gods?
Dr. Moore : I think that is a significant aspect. But then, I think we started playing God a long time ago. We've breeding plants for agriculture for 10 thousand years. We've been using wood for fires to cook for a million years. So we have been using nature, manipulating nature for a very long time.
Host : And creating artificial leg.
Dr. Moore : Yes.
Host : We've heard that you're conducting a seminar tomorrow. Could you tell us more about it? What's the significance of the seminar?
Dr. Moore : The seminar tomorrow is basically focusing on biodiversity, biotechnology and sustainable development. And it is my belief that, if you look a sustainable development in the broad sense meaning social, economic, and environmental sustainability, biotech is positive for biodiversity, that biotech is good for our social programs, and that, from an economic point of view, it will produce more food which is healthier.
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