Anti-science crusaders wrapped up in “first world problems”

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I heard it the first time last Christmas, standing in front of two HD television sets. I was struggling with the decision to purchase a 39-inch “regular” TV or a 32-inch “smart” TV, for the same price. Perhaps I was struggling too much as my 25-year-old son told me, “Dad, this is a first world problem.”

I had never heard that before and, the more I thought about it, the more hilarious it seemed. I realized that a lot of what I do for a living involves explaining things to people who are trying to solve first world problems by breaking U.S. farmers and ranchers.

It is true that anti-science activism burns hotter in places where people are affluent. Its most aggressive proponents tend to be well off or soliciting funds to solve these first world problems. When you don’t have enough food, ignoring science and evidence in pursuit of utopia just seems silly. The evidence suggests that a person who buys lower cost conventional food at a modern grocery store can eat just as safely as a person spending more at Whole Foods. There is nothing wrong with either choice.

The thing that gets some folks more stirred up than anything is the use of biotechnology—GMOs—in growing food.  More and more journalists are doing their job, taking an actual objective look at this particular first world obsession. These are products with a spotless two-decade safety record that reduce both pesticide use and fuel consumption.

People who crusade for various causes owe themselves the facts. There are a lot of real full blown “third world problems” on the planet. Shouldn’t we solve those first?

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Indiana  |  August, 26, 2013 at 09:36 AM

Gene: You are on to something for sure. We do have the luxury of making choices. Hopefully our choices don't negatively impact the third world. Sometimes they do. Remember Bhopal, India. A bunch of third world people died when a first world based company had an industrial accident. I'm so old that I also remember a buch of "proven products" and technologies that had all kinds of un-anticipated side effects. Think Thalidimide, DDT, PCBs, DES etc. The problem is that industry is under pressure to rush products to market before long term studies can be undertaken and reviewed. Which of today's new and improved GMO products will prove to have un-intended consequences?

NW Indiana  |  August, 26, 2013 at 09:55 AM

"There are a lot of real full blown “third world problems” on the planet. Shouldn’t we solve those first?" "The third world problem" is the fact that we are becoming a third world country. We once laughed at Ross Peroit, because the TV told US to. Today you can glance at the end rows of a seed corn field and see third world litter there. You can pick up after them now. Enjoy.

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