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John Block: Nobel Laureates

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

How long have we been listening to the relentless insinuations that genetically engineered crops may not be safe? The environmental activists have chosen to ignore science and use every trick to frighten consumers into not eating GMO food.

Most scientists, 70% or 80%, stand up for the safety of GE foods.  Unfortunately, their voice has been drowned out by Greenpeace and their anti-science friends. I point out that they are only anti-science when it comes to GE. They are beating the drums for the global warming scientists.

The good news is that more than 100 Nobel laureates have decided that enough is enough. Richard Roberts, Chief Scientific Officer of New England Biolabs, a 1993 Nobel Prize winner, has taken the lead, and they have drafted a letter to Greenpeace. Here is part of what that letter says. “We are scientists. What Greenpeace is doing is damaging and is anti-science. Greenpeace initially and then some of their allies deliberately went out of their way to scare people.”

Greenpeace has been leading the fight to deprive children in the developing world of a GE strain of rice which can reduce Vitamin A deficiencies. Without that Vitamin A, many children face blindness and even death.

Mr. Roberts acknowledges that Greenpeace does some good things, but he hopes that after reading the letter, they would “admit that this is an issue that they got wrong and focus on the stuff that they do well.” The laureates’ letter adds that “Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology.”

Let’s hope the voice of the Nobel laureates can help convince the public of the value and safety of GE crops. Martin Chalfie, 2008 Nobel Prize winner, “thinks laureates can be influential on the GMO issue.”

If we, as farmers, are denied new production technology, food will cost more, farmers will use more herbicides and chemicals, yields will suffer, and forests will be cut down to grow food.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit

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