- The Washington Times - Friday, April 14, 2000

Thousands of demonstrators are converging on Washington this week to protest joint meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Among the demonstrators' specific complaints with the IMF and the World Bank are that these institutions' lending practices cause harm to the environment and hurt poor countries.
While IMF and World Bank policies have not been perfect, the irony is that the greater threat to poor countries and the environment comes from the groups protesting, not the IMF or World Bank.
In a call to action, anti-biotechnology activists say they intend to disrupt and shut down the IMF and World Bank meetings, continuing their campaign of hysteria against agriculture biotechnology. The Mobilization for Global Justice, an umbrella group that calls Seattle their "coming out party," considers the IMF and World Bank meetings the "next big opportunity to demand a peaceful, people-centered, and environmentally-sound global economic system." Just as they did in Seattle, the protesters will, at the very least, disrupt traffic, interfere with public transportation and otherwise make Washington workers' commutes even more miserable than the norm. Since the organizers refuse to condemn violence as a tool, they may also destroy property worth millions of dollars.
In the long term, they could also do even more damage to the environment and to less developed countries the very causes for which they will be paralyzing our capital city. Despite lackluster leadership from the Clinton administration, the World Trade Organization is the only way to provide a more open global economy that provides the potential to meet world food needs, lift people of all nations out of poverty and build a foundation for lasting peace and prosperity. The miracle that is biotechnology could do more to further these goals, plus end world hunger and malnutrition, wipe out countless diseases and make the environment cleaner.
So why do environmental groups oppose technology that promises to improve the environment? Take a look at some of the leading groups trying to prevent the use of biotechnology: Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Action Network, Rainforest Action Network, Earth First, Food First, Consumers International, Organic Consumers Association, Public Citizen, and Jeremy Rifkin's Foundation on Economic Trends, just to name a few. If they really want to solve problems like world hunger, disease and environmental degradation, they should be the leading proponents of biotechnology. It's high time that someone questions the real motivation of the groups that will be protesting here in D.C., particularly their opposition to biotechnology.
A good place to start this exploration is to examine the list of financial supporters for the Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, which is loaded with organic food producers and retailers. As Gregory Conko, director of food safety policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute says, "it is a backhanded and deceitful way of promoting organic products" and perhaps of diverting the public's attention from the real dangers of eating excrement-fertilized organic foods loaded with deadly contaminants.
With the organics/natural foods industry bankrolling much of the anti-biotech movement in the United States and Europe, it is little wonder that these groups oppose a technology that holds such great promise to provide the solutions to the very problems they are supposedly organized to fight.
This week's protests in Washington are just the latest tactic from groups determined to preserve a "cause" that allows them to continue to raise millions of dollars.
C.S. Prakash, director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University, points out that the effectiveness of fertilizers, pesticides and hybrids have reached a plateau. With a growing world population, only biotechnology will increase yields enough to prevent the need to put more land like rainforests into production. Isn't that what the Rainforest Action Network wants?
Biotechnology will lead to crops that are resistant to pests and disease, eliminating the need for pesticides and fungicides. For example, biotech has produced corn plants resistant to major pests, which could eliminate 90 percent of the insecticides used in corn production. You would expect a group called the Pesticide Action Network to favor technologies that reduce the use of synthetic chemical pesticides. Wrong.
Groups like Mobilization for Global Justice say they are organizing for a greener world. When it comes to biotechnology, though, it turns out they are organizing for greenbacks. The fact is that if this campaign against biotechnology succeeds, it would harm the environment and threaten the well-being of millions of people.

John Frydenlund is director of the Center for International Food and Agriculture Policy at Citizens Against Government Waste.

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