"Just when you thought the enemies of biotechnology couldn't sink any lower, they somehow manage to explore new depths of depravity.
"Consider the case of John Vidal, the environmental editor of The Guardian, an influential British newspaper.
"Mr. Vidal's words are a full-frontal attack on American agriculture."
Oh, and they're organising a write-in to the paper:
"Perhaps there's nothing we can do about the vitriol of certain anti-biotech activists. They're zealots, impervious to rational debate and scientific evidence.
"But we also shouldn't remain silent when they give voice to cruel wishes. I therefore encourage my readers to contact The Guardian themselves...
This is not the first time that the author of this attack, Dean Kleckner, has sought to emote over a tragedy in order to exploit it.
In a speech to the annual meeting of CropLife America, Kleckner complained about having "to endure the agonizing experience of watching millions of Africans starve because their political leaders can't make reasonable and humane decisions."
The context of this remark was the refusal of some African leaders to accept GM grain as food aid. However, despite the implications of Kleckner's statement, there is no evidence that anyone has starved (let alone millions!) because of such concern over GM-contamination, although there has been considerable criticism of the US's exploitation of the food aid issue for trade purposes!
Other similarly emotive but equally unsupported claims have been made on the Truth about Trade website, eg "Did you know that thousands of children starve every day? ...it isn't because of a worldwide shortage of food. It is because of a worldwide shortage of trade and technology."
Kleckner has also been quoted as saying, "We ought to ask those who demagoge (sic) the issue of biotechnology, how many vitamin A deficient blind children will you allow to achieve your objective? How many iron deficient women must die in childbirth for your direct-mail fund raising efforts? How many more lives will you sacrifice for your "cause"?"
As a past president of the US Farm Bureau, Kleckner has also been embroiled in the Bureau's massive financial interests and its self-serving and extreme political agenda.
According to Mississippi Farm Bureau farmer, Fred Stokes, "AFBF president Dean Kleckner and the national staff consistently sell out their members and jump in bed with agribusiness."
So much for Kleckner's bleeding heart over the plight of the American farmer!
Dean Kleckner, Chairman, Truth About Trade & Technology
Just when you thought the enemies of biotechnology couldn't sink any lower, they somehow manage to explore new depths of depravity.
Consider the case of John Vidal, the environmental editor of The Guardian, an influential British newspaper. In a column earlier this month, he described what he called Hurricane Katrina's "silver lining."
Not that you need a refresher, but let's keep in mind a few grim facts as we turn to Mr. Vidal's fond remembrance of the most devastating natural disaster in American history: hundreds and maybe thousands of people are dead; hundreds of thousands are destitute; one of America's great cities may never recover; government at all levels responded poorly to a crisis that was not wholly unforeseen; people who have never set foot on Bourbon Street are feeling the economic pinch, from motorists pumping gas to farmers trying to sell their crops.
Maybe it's true, as the saying goes, that every cloud has a silver lining. Certainly the individual acts of heroism and kindness offer a ray of hope. But if there's a silver lining to Hurricane Katrina, right now it's a dim and tarnished silver that's barely visible against the awesome blackness of incomprehensible devastation.
So what good news does Mr. Vidal perceive amid the wreckage? Does he hope that maybe Americans in another coastal city will pay more heed when they're advised to evacuate? Or does he think that perhaps local, state, and federal officials will learn some hard lessons and be better prepared in the aftermath of another catastrophe?
Nope. Instead, he's encouraged by the prospect that Americans will suffer even more than they already have.
In an item headlined "Silver lining," and published on September 7, here's what the environmental editor of The Guardian wrote:
"Whatever Hurricane Katrina's long-term effect on the way America thinks about global warming and oil dependency, it is probably going to make GM animal feed more expensive in Europe. Almost all U.S. maize and soya goes through New Orleans and the port of Destrehan, and nothing is expected out for some time because of silting in the Mississippi. This should cheer up anti-GM activists in Britain who have been trying to persuade supermarkets to stick with non-GM supplies and not to accept produce that has been given GM feed."
I'm astonished that the effects of Hurricane Katrina could "cheer up" anybody.
Or maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. There are many America-haters in the world, and we've seen how depressingly far their loathing can take them. I just didn't expect to see this sentiment expressed on the pages of one of Britain's leading newspapers.
Mr. Vidal's words are a full-frontal attack on American agriculture. Although we're still calculating the damage, conservative estimates say that the hurricane will cost farmers $1 billion in direct costs (crop and livestock losses) and another $1 billion in other costs (the spike in gas prices, increased shipping rates).
Our thoughts and prayers remain with Gulf Coast farmers who bore the brunt of the storm. Those of us who live upriver from them along the Mississippi and its tributaries are feeling the effects of falling commodity prices. Traditionally, more than 60 percent of the corn and soybeans slated for export have traveled through New Orleans. About half of our corn and virtually all of our soybeans are genetically enhanced--and these are the crops that Mr. Vidal and his friends can't abide.
In the past, I've made clear my disagreements with anti-biotech activists, especially those who are having such an unhealthy effect on public attitudes in Europe. I've spoken sharply about the economic and moral consequences of their rhetoric and actions, and I will continue to do so.
But never have I wished them personal ill will. And if a hurricane were to destroy Mr. Vidal's home tomorrow, you wouldn't find me writing a column about any "silver lining."
Perhaps there's nothing we can do about the vitriol of certain anti-biotech activists. They're zealots, impervious to rational debate and scientific evidence.
But we also shouldn't remain silent when they give voice to cruel wishes. I therefore encourage my readers to contact The Guardian themselves and tell the newspaper exactly what you think about its environmental editor's "silver lining."
Dean Kleckner is an Iowa farmer and past president of the American Farm Bureau. He chairs Truth About Trade and Technology (www.truthabouttrade.org) a national non-profit based in Des Moines, IA, formed and led by farmers in support of freer trade and advancements in biotechnology.