In their Orange County Register op/ed, University of California, Davis agricultural economist Colin Carter and Hoover Institution fellow Henry Miller perceive a silver lining in the current food crisis–unscientific fears of genetically enhanced crops promoted by rich country activist scare groups will fall by the wayside. To wit:
What does the future hold? The IMF's prophecy of mass starvation will undoubtedly go the way of the earlier prophets of gloom and doom. A medium- and long-term benefit of high commodity prices may be that the governments in poor countries will be able to justify the testing and commercialization of critical gene-spliced food crops such as rice and wheat. Countries like China have this new technology ready to go, and the licensing of gene-spliced rice and wheat will quickly boost yields, and because of better insect, disease and weed control, reduce the costs of production.
Gene-splicing has been grossly overregulated and underused because of antagonism from national regulators (especially in Europe, Japan and developing countries) and U.N. agencies. In spite of a two-decades-old consensus that gene-splicing is an extension, or refinement, of less precise methods for genetic improvement, and that it is at least as safe as other techniques, it has been subjected to discrimination and obstruction.
As an illustration of the extraordinary naiveté among politicians, consider this from Al Gore: "The most lasting impact of biotechnology on the food supply may come not from something going wrong, but from all going right. My biggest fear is not that by accident we will set loose some genetically defective Andromeda strain. Given our past record in dealing with agriculture, we're far more likely to accidentally drown ourselves in a sea of excess grain." Too bad there's not a Nobel Stupidity Prize.
Thus, although American and European ethanol subsidies are injurious to consumers at large, farmers in countries like China and India will ultimately benefit from them. Such subsidies have helped to create an artificial food crisis that will spur innovation, including greater use of gene-splicing for the development of improved plant varieties. That, in turn, will boost farm incomes in developing countries and moderate the price of food worldwide.
Whole op/ed here.