Slamming GMOs is immoral, says Purdue University president

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Slamming GMOs is immoral, says Purdue University president

By Carolyn Schierhorn - 01/08/2018

Food manufacturers increasingly tout on packaging that their products are “Non-GMO,” whether or not anyone would ever expect such items to have come in contact with genetically modified organisms. (Today, you can buy non-GMO-labeled bottled water, for example.) Many companies are also taking the extra step of having their products “Non GMO Project Verified.” Even many USDA-certified organic products, which are non-GMO by definition, carry a separate “Non-GMO” claim.

But as the food industry knows full well, there is no evidence that GMOs in any way harm human health or the ecosystem, emphasized Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University and a former governor of Indiana, in an editorial published Jan. 2 in the Chicago Tribune and Dec. 27 in the Washington Post

The “Non-GMO” claims are placed on packaging to allay growing but misplaced consumer concerns and to sell products, sometimes at premium prices, he noted in his commentary.

But unlike some other food phobias and fads used as marketing ploys, the anti-science attack on GMOs has dire consequences for developing countries that could benefit from modern agricultural technologies. As Daniels wrote, “one would expect a united effort to spread these life-saving, planet-sparing technologies as fast as possible to the poorer nations who will need them so urgently. Instead, we hear demands that developing countries forgo the products that offer them the best hope of joining the well-fed, affluent world. In the words of a gullible former Zambian president, ‘We would rather starve than get something toxic.’ ”

Daniels stressed in his op-ed piece that the molecular techniques used to create GMOs represent a natural continuation of cumulative scientific advances in agriculture, such as those spearheaded by agronomist Norman Borlaug, who developed disease-resistant wheat varieties in the mid-20th century and later received the Nobel Peace Prize for improving food security in Mexico, India and Pakistan.

Daniels takes academia, the private sector and the public sector to task for not being more vocal in countering “the distortions of the naysayers.” As he put it, “for the rich and well-fed to deny Africans, Asians or South Americans the benefits of modern technology is not merely anti-scientific. It’s cruel, it’s heartless, it’s inhumane — and it ought to be confronted on moral grounds that ordinary citizens, including those who have been conned into preferring non-GMO Cheerios, can understand.”

Schierhorn, the managing editor of Store Brands, can be reached at [email protected]