Published on: 08:40AM Aug 29, 2008
Dear Prince Charles:
I’ve just read your recent interview with the Daily Telegraph--the one from earlier this month, in which you condemn agricultural biotechnology as an “absolute disaster” and “the classic way of ensuring there is no food in the future.”
And you didn’t stop there. You warned that GM crops would lead to “the biggest disaster environmentally of our time.” You also claimed that genetic enhancement doesn’t increase crop yields.
You even asserted that “millions of small farmers all over the world [would be] driven off their land into unsustainable, unmanageable, degraded, and dysfunctional conurbations of unmentionable awfulness.”
On each of these points, I beg to differ. Your ideas about farming are as antiquated as the notion that countries should be governed by kings and queens rather than presidents and prime ministers. Biotechnology isn’t a disaster to be avoided--it’s an opportunity we dare not ignore.
Still, I can understand your confusion. After all, for many years misinformation and propaganda against biotechnology have dominated the discussions in Europe. The atmosphere is so poisonous, in fact, that one of your fellow aristocrats, Lord Peter Melchett, was arrested a few years ago for destroying a field of GM crops. This is an example of a criminal zealot, not a leader.
I know that you would never stoop so low as to attack a sanctioned scientific experiment. Without research, after all, we’ll never learn anything about biotechnology, good or bad. Surely on this we can agree.
I believe that you’re willing to study biotechnology with open-minded seriousness. You spoke of having visited farms in Australia and India, to learn about their operations. Obviously, you like to see things firsthand.
With that in mind, let me extend an invitation: Come to Iowa. See how we farm here, using the very best that biotechnology has to offer. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you discover in one of the world’s great and most productive regions.
I know that you’re very concerned about soil quality as am I and all my farmer neighbors. Our livelihoods depend upon it and our heritage requires it. We appreciate that biotech seeds allow us to reduce or eliminate tillage which reduces fuel use and carbon footprint. We understand that superior weed control with reduced chemicals means higher yields and less pressure on our environment and health.
I’ll show you reports that describe what my yields have looked like over the years, acre by acre. They’ve gone up for a number of reasons--and biotechnology is one of the most important. Farmers stay in business by producing as much as possible. Midwest farmers have almost universally embraced biotech seeds in corn and soybeans. Today we produce immense harvests that even partially support a move away from fossil fuels. This productivity reduces global pressure to bring wilderness areas under a plow.
In your interview, you said that biotechnology would destroy small-scale farming in poor countries. The goal should be to move small farmers from subsistence and worry to a position of having a little excess to sell; allowing them to feel secure in their existence. Better seeds are literally the key to lifting people from poverty and fear.
Have you ever noticed that famines don’t strike countries that engage in the most modern agricultural practices? This isn’t a coincidence. Farmers in developing countries have amazing potential. Biotechnology can help them step forward in peace and prosperity.
All projections indicate we’re going to have to continue improving productivity if we’re going to feed anybody and alter our fuel production methods. If we fail in this area, the future will be full of what you call “unmentionable awfulness.” This challenge will not be met by regressive methods and repressive elitist policies. Biotechnology is among our current tool set for meeting that huge food AND fuel challenge.
But don’t take my word for it. Please accept my invitation. Come to Iowa and see how we do things here.
Reg Clause, a Truth About Trade and Technology board member (www.truthabouttrrade.org) raises cattle, corn and soybeans on a fourth generation family farm in central Iowa.