Question of Life or Death in Africa

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A February 8, 2006 article by Temba Nolutshungu denounces regulations that keep biotech crops from hungry Africans, and ACSH president Dr. Elizabeth Whelan is mentioned:

The precautionary principle requires action to avoid a risk even when there's no evidence of any risk: it demands that technology should not be used unless, and until, it has been shown to be absolutely safe, reversing the usual burden of proof.

New technologies are assumed to be harmful until they have been proven safe to an impossible standard.

Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health, says the precautionary principle always assumes worst-case scenarios, distracts consumers and policy-makers alike from the known and proven threats to human health while assuming no risk from the proposed regulations themselves: the precautionary principle overlooks the possibility that real public health risks can be associated with expending resources on eliminating miniscule hypothetical risks.

When the Zambian government turned away GM maize intended for its starving people because of a theoretical health risk, it created a real risk and turned a disaster into a tragedy. Denied the food, people died of starvation. But that same type of GM maize has been consumed by Americans and Canadians for more than a decade.