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November 26, 2014

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Science deniers on the left

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If this column appeared under the headline, “Massive defeat for the anti-science forces,” you would naturally assume I’m talking about some kind of setback for conservative Republicans, right? And you would be completely wrong.

The losers in this case are the luddite shock troops of progressivism such as Greenpeace. And the winners are the children of the Philippines, thousands of whom will not go blind or die because the anti-science wing of modern liberalism finally is getting some pushback.

The Filipino government has finally approved the planting of genetically modified rice that contains vitamin A.

“Golden rice,” as the stuff is called, probably won’t make a splash in the United States, but in developing nations, it will be a godsend.

Between a quarter-million and a half-million children go blind each year from vitamin A deficiency, the United Nations says, and half of them die within 12 months. Some studies put the figure even higher.

As many as 300 million people at high risk for vitamin A deficiency live in countries where the staple food is rice. For them, golden rice will provide a quick, easy and cheap fix: eating just 2 ounces a day will provide 60 percent of the recommended daily dose of Vitamin A.

But that hasn’t stopped Greenpeace and other luddite-left activists from fighting a scorched-earth war to stop golden rice.

For more than a dozen years — or, if you prefer to keep score in the lives of children, 8 million dead — they’ve kept golden rice off the market by calling it Frankenfood and insisting that it will wreck the environment and spread dependence on Western capitalism.

What role does science play in the left-wing opposition to golden rice and other genetically modified crops? None. Study after study has shown no detectable deleterious effects on human health from genetically altered foods. And two studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have shown that golden rice is an even better vehicle for delivery of vitamin A than spinach, the wonder vegetable.

Every time some lone Republican nut from Hooterville makes a jackass statement about rape or evolution, it’s immediately ascribed as a doctrinal belief of the entire GOP and conservatives in general. But liberal resistance to science is far more organized, far more destructive and far less covered in the media:

• Millions of American parents refused to have their children vaccinated for diseases such as whooping cough and measles after Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published an error-ridden tirade in Rolling Stone and the left-wing website Salon in 2005 linking vaccines to autism and other neurological disturbances.

Six years later, Salon retracted the article, yet many parents remain convinced of the linkage to this day — one of whom now sits in the White House. “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate,” Barack Obama said during his 2008 campaign. “Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included.” Obama’s spurious worries about vaccines led to manufacturing changes that caused a shortage of flu vaccine in the winter of 2009.

• Virtually no nuclear-power plants have been built in the United States during the past four decades, the result of continuous left-wing scare stories. Australian physician Helen Caldicott has become a folk hero — 21 honorary degrees and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize — for her anti-nuke campaign, the centerpiece of which is that the explosion at the Soviet Union’s Chernobyl nuclear reactor led to nearly a billion deaths and countless hideous birth defects.

Actual death toll, according to the U.N.’s scientific committee on nuclear radiation: less than 100. Actual birth defects: zero. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences says that the chances of radiation-induced changes in human sperm and eggs are so low that it has never been detected in human beings, “even in thoroughly studied irradiated populations such as those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

There may be good reasons for opposing nuclear power — mainly, that the industry is a bloated corporate welfare tick that cannot survive without massive government subsidy — but science isn’t one of them, which is why a 2009 Pew Research Center survey showed 70 percent of scientists support it.

But scientific consensus, invoked like clockwork whenever lefty activists and their journalist friends talk about global warming, is mysteriously irrelevant when they’re discussing nuclear power or genetically enhanced crops. In 2005, the International Council for Science — a coalition of 140 scientific organizations — reviewed more than 50 studies and declared flatly: “Currently available genetically modified foods are safe to eat.”

There are a few million dead Third World kids who wish that somebody had listened.

Glenn Garvin is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

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  1. Score one for science, truth and conservatives. Terrific article. Thank you Mr. Garvin. I tremble to think of the state of mankind and learning if the anti-science and technology forces always got their way under the disguise of righteousness.

    CarmineD

  2. I missed where conservatives were defending the science of AGW, GMO's, etc.

  3. If it were up to the Luddites on the left, we'd still be putting cards in our windows letting the iceman know how many lbs we needed to put in our "iceboxes." We'd still be firing up coal-fed furnaces or our house interiors would stink from oil-burning space heaters; we'd be polluting the streets with feces pancakes from our horse-drawn carriages; and we'd be reading by candle light. Thanks to the likes of Rachel Carson, millions have died from malaria that did not need to because of her scare tactics about DDT. And the left couldn't care less since it affects them and their off-spring not one iota!

  4. As usual the right wind wackos have come out of the gate without any evidence.

    1) Since when did Republicans (and the rest of the crazies) become advocates for GMO's or foreign aid?

    2) Granted their is a different trade-off on safety vs. food insecurity in a developing country compared to the United States. So even if for the Philippines this GMO was the correct choice (and that is a big if), that does not make all the other creationism. climate change denying TEATARD dofma science.

    3) Finally there are well recognized scientific concerns about GMOs, even as it relates to providing for food insecure populations. I quote from a WHO document: Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods.

    http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publicatio...

    Debate policy and facts, not your bigotry and hypocrisy.

  5. My mother-in-law was right. Here is the rest of the story:
    Before the American occupation of the Philippines, the vast majority of
    Filipino's lived in the country, 'the provinces'. They grew vegetables and fruits, grains and rice. They raised chickens and pigs for meat, and did a lot of fishing. Was the rice the white rice we all know and eat? No. It was a brown rice, with vitamins and protein. It was a healthy diet, but not one to get fat on.

    The American occupation brought the trade in rice. Americans wanted to export rice from the Philippines. This brought jobs, investment and development, good things.
    The trouble was and is the American's wanted to export milled rice, rice with it's nutritious outer layer full of vitamins and protein removed, white rice. At first this was not a problem because the Filipino's found the white rice strange, and more expensive. White rice was called American rice.

    As time has gone by the 'high brow' rice became a status thing, as many American things became. Now the vast majority of rice consumed, at every meal, is white rice.
    Every meal? Yes, for breakfast dried fish and rice is so common. To add insult to injury, health wise, there seems to be the same fixation with over processed and over advertised junk food that we have, and the same bad health consequences. Add to this too many mothers are buying expensive formula and not nursing their babies, or even worse diluting the formula or thinking Tang is juice, well, you know where this is going. Large multinational corporations are making good money, and Filipino's are gaining weight and some are actually malnourished, just like us!

    How do I know this? My small stores in the Philippines sells fat too much junk food, soda and rum. When I'm there we shop for fresh vegetables and fresh bread at the public market, I lose weight and get in much better shape when I'm there. And due to advise from local health professionals my mother-in-law insists on brown rice. Any Filipino can, if they have a plot of land, raise nutritious food and meat, and buy fresh fish for a few pesos. Not easy when you live in a city, especially if you're a squatter.

    Here is the lesson to be learned: We've all made poor choices in diet. Too many of us eat far too much cheap processed food, poor in nutrition. We all really need to think hard about this and make better choices. And I only hear about this issue from liberals, probably the same ones involved in the occupy movement. Boggles the mind.

    Magandang gabi, lahat.