The Promise of Biotechnology and the Unethical Tactics of Ag Biotech Critics were the recent subjects at a press conference held by U. S. Representative Nick Smith (R-Mich.), Chairman of the House Science Sub-committee on Basic Research. Also speaking with him were Steve Milloy of Junkscience.com, Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute and Bonner Cohen of the Lexington Institute.

Congressman Smith is one of the leading congressional champions of the promising new science of agriculture biotechnology. His sub-committee released an in-depth study in April, "Seeds of Opportunity," that extols the safety of biotechnology and its potential to feed millions of people in the developing world.

The press conference also focused on the fear mongering tactics of some environmental groups. They are the self-proclaimed "public interest" organizations that team up with public relations specialists to manipulate a gullible populace into doing their bidding. According to Bonner Cohen, "None is more skilled at fomenting fear among consumers than Fenton Communications, a Washington-based PR firm whose clients include Greenpeace, Environmental Working Group, World Wildlife Fund, Citizen Action and Public Action."

Fenton's first coup was convincing CBS's "60 Minutes" in 1989 to do a segment on a study released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Fenton client. As you remember, the study linked Alar with cancer particularly in children.

Even though the study had not undergone independent peer review and was not based on human exposure to Alar, the panic that followed devastated apple growers across the country and forced Alar's manufacturer to withdraw the product from the market.

They have also attacked the bovine growth hormone that increases milk production in cows by 10 to 25 percent stating that it renders milk harmful, even cancerous. As any well-educated person knows fewer cows producing more milk require less land for grazing which reduces waste produced by the animals.

Aside from those environmental benefits, there is no recognizable difference between the cows treated with the hormone and those not treated. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop pointed out the real problem with the issue saying, "Unfortunately, a few fringe groups are using misleading statements and blatant falsehoods as part of a long-running campaign to scare consumers about a perfectly safe food. Their long-range goal is to prevent the benefits of biotechnology from reaching the public."

On Sept. 25, we contacted John Carlisle at the National Center for Public Policy Research as a follow-up to the press conference. He told us that at this time Congress is holding two to three conferences a week on biotechnology and the response is overwhelmingly pro-biotech.

He said, "One of the great things about this issue is that Congress is not polarized - Democrats and Republicans alike are realizing the benefits of biotechnology. He also stated that "even though the enviros are scoring some points with the general public, reasonable people are not being swayed or scared."

We can only hope that more and more the general public can recognize these "scare tactics" as exactly what they are and realize that the "smoke screen" put up by these groups don't come from a real fire but a "stink bomb"!