Luddites attack genegineered crop

Max More (
Thu, 23 Oct 1997 12:12:27 -0700

In Ireland, an environmental activist group called the Gaelic
Earth Liberation Front has destroyed a one-acre research crop of
genetically engineered sugar beet. Under the auspices of the
Irish Government, the crop was grown by the US chemical company
Monsanto to develop a sugar beet variety resistant to a widely
used herbicide. The Gaelic Earth Liberation Front said in a
statement: "This was Ireland's first genetically engineered crop
and we hope it will be the last." But of course it will not be
the last, and one wonders if this is activism for the sake of
activism by people who known little about the environment and
even less about biology. Patricia McKenna, a politician who
represents Dublin in the European Parliament, praised the
destruction of the sugar beet crop, accusing Monsanto and the
Irish government of "playing games with the Irish environment".
And that underscores the non-triviality of these events. The neo-
Luddite rumblings that are becoming common these days are useful
to some people with political power, which means both the source
of the rumblings and the politicians who use the rumblings need
to be confronted by the scientific community. Ultimately it is
the larger community which must be persuaded one way or the
other; it is the attitude of the larger community that will
determine the fate of the neo-Luddite groups and the politicians
who use them. Concerning the science involved, what is obvious to
the scientific community is not always obvious to the community
at large, and one can only hope the scientific community will see
its responsibility to make its case to the larger community by
forceful and articulate dissemination of information. There is no
other apparent reasonable road. (Nature 9 Oct 1997)