Biotech's Brave Old World
Editors’Note: August 4, 2017
Legitimateobjections have been raised about the independence and integrity of thecommentaries that Henry Miller has written for Project Syndicate and other outlets, inparticular that Monsanto, rather than Miller, drafted some of them. Readersshould be aware of this potential conflict of interest, which, had it beenknown at the time Miller’s commentaries were accepted, would have constitutedgrounds for rejecting them.
Skeptics about agricultural biotechnology lambaste it as unproven, untested, unnatural, and uncontrollable. Nothing could be farther from the truth. On the contrary, neither biotechnology nor genetic engineering are new, and consumers, government, and industry all have had long, extensive, and positive experience with both.
Early biotechnology--the application of biological systems to technical or industrial processes--dates to 6000 B.C., when the Babylonians used specialized microorganisms in fermentation to brew alcoholic beverages. Genetic engineering can be dated from man's recognition that animals and crop plants can be selected and bred to enhance desired characteristics. Early biologists and agriculturists carried out selection for desired traits, generating poorly understood changes in the organisms' genetic material.