Path Home Shows 2014 Show Archive November 2014 Show 1444 Food Fight!

Food Fight!

Value Added: Biotech is a scientific reality, but consumer acceptance of gene manipulation is slow, especially in Europe.
Food Fight!

Food Fight!

Show Details

Show 1444: Food Fight!
Air Date: November 2, 2014



Rob: Well, while biotech is now a scientific reality, acceptance on a social level, as Keith has just said, has been much slower. And nowhere has there been more opposition to the manipulation of genes than in Europe. At a scientific forum held in Munich, Germany, I was able to visit with both scientists and everyday folks about what remains a controversial science.

Rob: Like many Europeans, most Germans prefer to shop for food every day, believing the fresher the better. It’s a culture that heavily subsidizes small farms and typically opposes corporate agriculture, especially genetically modified crops called GMOs.

Clara Hermoso Sanchez: It’s not an attitude about food. I think it’s an attitude about government, that we try not to trust what they will say.

Rob: And it’s a fear that’s grown into a movement. Across Europe there are 174 GMO-free zones, entire states and provinces where it’s illegal to plant a GMO crop, an attitude that has slowed biotech crop development, not just in Europe, but around the world. Each year as many as a half a million children in developing countries go blind from vitamin deficiency. So using genetic engineering, scientists created a vitamin-fortified rice that would combat this. Yet objections predominantly in Europe have all but halted its production.

Ingo Potrykus: What we are seeing with transgenic plants in Europe is a witch hunt. It has nothing to do with science. It has nothing to do with logic. It has nothing to do with common sense.

Rob: Ingo Potrykus invented golden rice in 1999. Objections delayed the first field trials until 2004, and to date, the genetically engineered crop remains unavailable, a delay Potrykus blames on European attitudes.

Ingo Potrykus: 99.9 percent of the European consumer doesn’t care for third world problems. They just have the crazy idea they want to eat pure food which has never been touched by men, despite the fact that all they are eating has been dramatically altered by men.

Filip Cnudde: I think in the U.S., it’s the litigation culture. People say, “OK, I’m willing to eat it, and it better be safe; and if it’s not safe, I’ll sue the hell out of them.” For the European it’s a completely different perspective, when the politician stands up and says, “Listen, I have looked at the facts, and I can assure you it’s safe.” Then people start worrying and say, “Why is he telling that? What could be behind that?”

Rob: Making the debate over genetically engineered food less about science and more about social attitudes.