Smoking vs. Genetically-Modified Crops

So the French are opposed to genetically modified crops. And to some degree, I understand the concerns they have regarding the unknown consequences of genetic manipulation of the food supply. It’s a complicated issue, of course. Genetically modified crops could help stem serious issues of famine in Africa, reduce the use of harmful pesticides in developed countries, and generally provide a new tool in finding the right ecological balance of our species’s impact on the environment. But at what cost to the environment and the ecosystem? We don’t know exactly, and we must be careful at least because there are many billions of dollars to be made selling the stuff.

(One should note that the US’s stance on genetically modified crops is at least as crazy as the French’s, in the opposite direction. Foods are not required to be labeled appropriately, which leaves consumers in the dark as to whether or not they’re eating genetically-modified foods. Almost sounds like a communist regime where the government and food industry know what’s good for you, so don’t you worry.)

But come on, smoking? The French government just caved, refusing to introduce new public smoking restrictions. Now, if you’ve been to France, you have some idea of how bad the public smoking issue is. A few months ago, I asked for a non-smoking table at a restaurant in Paris, and the owner said “well, how about we sit you next to that Japanese fellow, the Japanese usually don’t smoke over meals.” Sure enough, 10 minutes later, the gentleman next to us lit up a cigarette. Generally, in France, the non-smoking section is an abstract notion, rather than a physically separate space.

I’m always flabbergasted by the deep irony of the notorious anti-globalization, anti-GM-crops Frenchman Jose Bove, seen here at a rally smoking a pipe, who recently made the news again when he was arrested for occupying a Monsanto seed plant. Because there’s nothing like protesting a possible health risk while provably giving your friends cancer. It’s like the guy embodies the deep irony of French policy all on his own.

So yeah, let’s discuss the deep issues of genetically modified crops. Let’s find a good middle ground between the Jose Bove technophobia and the American naivete that technology will cure all our ills.

But, in the meantime, I’d like my croissant without cancer, thank you.

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