In 1999, Dick Taverne wrote an article for Prospect in which he passionately denounced the “anti-science” of a public culture indifferent to evidence and research, above all in the case of GM foods, which “act as a kind of lightning rod for the public malaise with science.” Eight years later, in our November cover story, he returns to the fray with an extended account of the ways in which public ignorance and a lack of foresight on the part of corporations have meant the proven benefits of GM food are still largely failing to reach those most in need of them.
Taverne’s is not a conciliatory tone, and his message is stark: Britain and Europe have lost the opportunity to lead the world in GM technology, and millions of lives have already been lost for no good scientific reason. In a world that will have to more than double its food production over the next half century, Taverne sees the need for GM crops as indisputable and the cult of “back to nature” as a misguidedly moralistic anachronism. Hard evidence, in other words, is the bottom line, and there is no need to dignify irrational arguments by taking them seriously. Let us know what you think here.