There's a frequent scene in action movies — particularly older films — where a character confronted by a crisis becomes hysterical. That's when a cooler presence steps in, grabs the squealer by the lapels and gives him a good shaking, usually followed by a hearty slap to the kisser and the admonition, “Snap out of it!”
There's no shortage these days of folks who could use such therapy — zero-tolerance whiners and opportunists who run around decrying the evils of science and progress. A few anti-technology prospects I'd nominate right off the bat are those involved in a new “documentary” entitled “Food, Inc.” And Nina Fedoroff, science and technology advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State since 2007, could deliver the sobering blows.
Backed by the same production company behind Al Gore's “An Inconvenient Truth,” the Robert Kenner film boasts two of today's high priests of food hysteria — Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation”) and Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore's Dilemma”). It opened in June and its promotional material crows about how it “lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA.”
But, as the American Meat Institute (AMI) points out at www.safefoodinc.com, the film presents “the least science and the most bias you're likely to see on our industry this decade.” AMI says the filmmakers' goal is to “make the organic niche the predominant way of producing food, but they have a complete failure to either comprehend or admit the impact that their vision would have on agriculture, the rural landscape and worldwide food supplies.”
That's where Federoff, a National Medal of Science laureate and a Penn State University professor of molecular biology, steps in to figuratively deliver a good right cross. In a March 31 interview with the BBC's “One Planet” program, Federoff said that part of the better land management that's needed to feed the world's teeming population must include the use of genetically modified (GM) foods.
“We have 6.5 billion people on the planet, going rapidly towards seven. We're going to need a lot of inventiveness about how we use water and grow crops,” she told the BBC.
Fedoroff, who wrote the book “Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Foods,” believes GM critics are living in bygone times.
“We accept exactly the same technology (as GM food) in medicine, and yet in producing food we want to go back to the 19th Century.
“We wouldn't think of going to our doctor and saying ‘Treat me the way doctors treated people in the 19th Century,’ and yet that's what we're demanding in food production,” she said.