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Sunday, Oct 1, 2023

Combat Hunger With Common Sense and Science

With the holidays behind us, it’s a good time for us to think about our food supply and how we can increase food security across the world. Much of the battle to conquer world hunger will be fought in labs and research facilities. But an equally important part will be fought in the public policy arena, where we need to advance an agenda that supports innovation and change.

In order to set the stage for world food growth, to encourage peace, and to raise standards of living, we need to first promote a vigorous pro-technology environment in which technological advances are embraced, not resisted.

After all, American business has been in the forefront of developing methods to improve crop yields, grow plants and vegetables that are richer in nutrients and resistant to disease, and reduce reliance on pesticides.

Anti-Technology Hysteria

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Unfortunately, anti-technology hysteria has been spreading through precisely the same corners of the world that have most benefited from modern technology. Recently, the target has been genetically enhanced agriculture.

Just as we stand on the verge of an exciting new era in which we can multiply the amount of world food available, using less land, incurring less cost, and providing more benefit, there are many people , many of whom live in privileged countries with plentiful food ,who do not see genetically enhanced agriculture and the research as what it is: a tool to help feed hungry people.

These activists have not put forth well-reasoned, sound objections to genetically enhanced agriculture. Instead, European opponents have successfully protested its introduction, even going so far as to vandalize experimental crop fields.

Anti-technology forces in the U.S., where there has been little opposition to genetically enhanced agriculture, are borrowing pages from the European handbook and agitating for limits and even bans on it. There is a role for legitimate study and oversight of genetically enhanced agriculture. But when there are almost 1 billion malnourished people in the world, we cannot allow plain and simple fear and ignorance to prevail. That’s why we must prevent opponents from manipulating governments, the media, the courts, and the court of public opinion here in America , and from further distorting the issue abroad.

Common Sense, Not Politics

We also must ensure that regulations governing food production are based on sound science and common sense , not politics. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency announced in August that it would place restrictions on two widely available and inexpensive pesticides that are used to protect everything from crops to the family dog.

By the EPA’s own admission, the science involved was “enormously challenging.” Unfortunately, the agency was under pressure from environmental and other groups, and was guilty of a political rush to judgment.

Restricting the use of safe, widely available, inexpensive and useful pesticides, especially when coupled with bans on growing crops that have been genetically enhanced to prevent insect damage, will have serious ramifications.

Farmers now will have to use more expensive and harder-to-find alternatives. Higher production costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices , exactly the wrong direction to go. Instead, to have more food at lower prices, let’s insist on a sensible regulatory regime that balances costs and benefits, and uses sound science in developing regulations.

World Food Security

We must also support free trade and an international system that lets us export our products. Trade is important to world food security , it helps countries grow stronger, and improve their citizens’ standard of living. That’s why it is so critical that we work to knock down barriers between countries.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is involved in measures to open trade around the world. Our aggressive agenda includes support of measures to further reduce trade barriers, especially for agriculture, and to expand market access. And we have kicked our trade education effort into high gear , we will forge coalitions and spread the pro-trade message all across the country.

The bottom line is that we must take food off the political table and put it on the dining room table. With a pro-technology, sensible regulatory environment, and an open world trade system, we can move forward and achieve this goal.

Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


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