This week, I want to idolize British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, because of remarks he made last week on genetically modified foods.
Addressing a group of scientists last week, Mr. Blair suggested that opponents of genetically modified foods aren’t “rational” when debating this issue.
“Government must show leadership and courage in standing up for science and rejecting an irrational public debate around it [GM food],” said Mr. Blair, referring to “those who have distorted facts to oppose developments such as GM foods.”
Mr. Blair, expectedly, did receive flaks for these remarks. Some challenged him to state if he was openly criticizing Prince Charles, who has openly opposed genetically modified foods [I must, hereby, mention that Prince Charles is wrong to use the privileges of the British throne to make statements that can’t be scientifically substantiated about genetically modified foods].
Others insinuated that it was payback time to multinational biotechnology companies, for millions of dollars donated to the Labor Party.
I found this quite amusing because of instead of addressing real issues, Mr. Blair’s critics decided to dwell on side issues. This, needless to say, has been the hallmark of the debate about genetically modified foods.
Opponents of genetically modified foods dare not attack the science behind genetically modified food because they have no case to make against it. Instead, they go for fringe issues with the aim of confusing the public.
Mr. Blair is right in urging the public to “discuss technological innovations in a more scientifically literate fashion.” Those who genuinely care about food safety should support and not criticize him. Mr. Blair evidently means well for the world.
How else can the world determine the safety of genetically modified foods other than subjecting them to thorough laboratory investigations? This is the premise of Mr. Blair’s argument.
Genetically modified foods have been subjected to rigorous examination by various scientific bodies. The British Royal Society of Science has produced numerous reports showing that genetically modified foods can be beneficial to humans and the environment.
Various United Nations Agencies, notably the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have also published similar reports.
Perhaps Mr. Blair should use his political leverage to prevail upon other European countries to change their attitude towards genetically modified foods. Currently, Europe maintains the most draconian and restrictive laws on genetically modified food. These laws aren’t informed by science, but by populist sentiments.
James Wachai is a communication expert, specializing in agricultural issues, and also authors the blog GMO Africa – www.gmoafrica.org