Freedom of thought and the ability to discover.
As the days go by, one sees the rapid changes all about. It’s quite hard to take it all in and accept that things are changing and evolving in ways that sometimes don’t seem comfortable. There are many superficial issues such as youngsters covered in Tattoos or same sex couples adopting children which we, who are longer in the tooth, find perplexing. It is of course the prevalence of those dominant ideas that prevailed in our youth that have become our ‘idea fixe’ by habit as much by right.
How disappointing it is then, to see so many instances of young, so called, protestors challenging without much thought the progressive advances in science such as genetically modified crops, advanced medical scientific developments, even space science.
It is as if there is a denial that human ingenuity is not natural and the obvious continuation of our evolution. That mankind is constantly adopting to the changes in his environment and challenging the future by adapting and constantly researching is surely the thing that makes the human race ‘different’.
Ants and crocodilians have chosen another route.
If asked if I envy the young I confess that I am full of envy, for they have the time and the opportunity to discover. I know not what, but whatever they do discover then putting those discoveries to the service of their fellow man is surely the highest acclaim of all.
Naturally discoveries can be put to good and not so good ends. It is usually the confusion of self that creates the conflict. Take for example genetically modified plants.
It was concluded (2014) that GM technology adoption had reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. This reduction in pesticide use has been ecologically beneficial, but benefits may be reduced by overuse. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.
There is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, but that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction. Nonetheless, members of the public are much less likely than scientists to perceive GM foods as safe. The legal and regulatory status of GM foods varies by country, with some nations banning or restricting them, and others permitting them with widely differing degrees of regulation.
These diverse opponents have objected to GM crops on several grounds, including environmental concerns, whether food produced from GM crops is safe, whether GM crops are needed to address the world’s food needs, and concerns raised by the fact these organisms are subject to intellectual property law. The protests have taken many forms including, vandalism, referenda, legislation, court action and scientific disputes. The controversies involve consumers, biotechnology companies, governmental regulators, non-governmental organizations and scientists. This is all happening despite the scientific consensus of ‘harmless’ and the obvious benefits as described above. Why? A 2016 review that reanalyzed the data from six of the main anti GM lobbies found that their statistical methodologies were flawed and did not demonstrate harm, and said that conclusions about GMO crop safety should be drawn from “the totality of the evidence… instead of far-fetched evidence from single studies”.
Leaving aside the commercial struggles of intellectual property rights, and proper safety checks pre -launch, there is disturbing evidence that large numbers of particularly younger people in developed countries are protesting (often maliciously) for no good reason other than their ignorance. Allied to this lack of understanding is the anti-global sentiment that predicates that all big operators like Monsanto are ‘bad’.
The same goes in the ethical discussions (so-called) related to the Pharmaceutical industry. By and large the industry pours in huge amounts of research resources, often billions, to produce a new drug. There are those who fail to see that these investments cannot and will not happen without a profitable business base.
Hence the antipathy of the anti-global lobby. The fear of global power vested in commercial hands is an anathema. What is the alternative? Well, they, the anti-globalists, have a point. Certainly there have been many examples, especially in the natural resources business, of corrupt exploitation, usually but not always, with the cooperation of corrupt governments. However, the great majority of global businesses are constrained by reasonable values and of course the rules imposed by sovereign state governments.
However, this interface between commercial power, national and international governance is where the political bias influences the belief patterns of the ordinary citizens. It here that the battle of long established religious and cultural values and progressive invention is fought.
The issue is our fundamental freedom and belief in the nature of our ability to discover and the need for mankind to evolve for its own survival. Whether this is stem cell research (curing disease), synthetic photosynthesis (cooling the planet), space travel (expanding our understanding of earth’s past and future), or pharmaceutical invention (prevention and cure of infection and disease) it matters not. Modern man is modern because he has evolved, we have survived and will only continue to do so if we discover the way towards tomorrow.
I do not want to eliminate the need for pressure groups, no one in his right mind would argue that pressure groups from ‘Green Peace’ to ‘Ban the Bomb’ have not contributed to positive change. The key issue is the education in all societies of the need to discover. To engender the attitude of positivity to inventions that set out to benefit mankind, whatever their source.
Will it ever come?