Friday, 29 April 2005

Q&A: Why are Libertarians for genetically modified food?

In response to yesterday's Celebration of Ten Years of Commercial GE here at Not PC, Lucyna asks on the Sir Humphrey blog: "Why are Libertarians for genetically modified food?" A fair question.

It's true that many libertarians (small 'l') are in favour of capitalism, technology and genetically modified food, but as a political party Libertarianz (big 'l' and an 'NZ' on the end) is neither for nor against GE. What Libertarianz is for is laws protecting against force and fraud. What we are against is busybody politicians inflicting force and fraud on us. In this respect, under 'Force and Fraud' and 'Busybody Politicians' please see 'The GE Debate,' particularly under Fitzsimplesimons, Jeanette and Hager, Nicky.

The Libertarianz position is that the issue of GE food is not one for politicians who know nothing - who should butt out - but for scientists, consumers, farmers, manufacturers and the like; the only political issue is a legal one, that there should be laws that protect against fraudulent labelling and objectively proven damages. I answered the particular question about legal protection some years ago here, and gave a speech to students on the subject some more years ago here. (Dates have been changed on the hosting site for some reason; these two were delivered some three to five years ago as I recall.)

The Royal Commission made a similar point in its report when discussing common law. In fact, the Royal Commission went much further than this:
"Technology is integral to the advancement of the world [they said]. Fire, the wheel, steam power, electricity, radio transmission, air and space travel, nuclear power, the microchip, DNA: the human race has ever been on the cusp of innovation. Currently, biotechnology is the new frontier. Continuation of research is critical to New Zealand's future." 

Not my words, or those of Ayn Rand, but those of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, which I would be proud to have written. The Commission adds, "As in the past we should go forward but with care." And as Lindsay Perigo clarified at the time: "The only "care" that needs to be exercised here is that at no stage are the rights to life, liberty & property violated. Otherwise, I say to the geneticists, tamper away - from your work will come more & better food, new medicines, & the unlocking of more of life's secrets. I hope you make bucket-loads of money from it."


  1. Of course that didn't answer the question since she asked why libertarians (note the lack of a z at the end) support GE. A good question which a libertarian should answer and which is answered in many libertarian websites which I would recommend she visits. But she's not here is she? And there is no indication she was ever here. So no use in doing that.

  2. Who is "she"?

    If you are talking about Lucyna, the evidence she has visited is in the posts on this site.

    There is no evidence you even bothered to look at this very site. Twit. Or do you prefer "twitz"?

  3. The only "care" that needs to be exercised here is that at no stage are the rights to life, liberty & property violated.

    Exactly. I haven't heard from enough sources to be sure my right to life isn't at risk.

    So this comes back to my point information is critical on issues like this that have no ability to wind back the clock.

    Let's go for GE and reap the benefits, but let's ensure information flow and a person's right to decide for themselves if they want to eat certain types of foods.

    I'm not seeing that here. I'm seeing stonewalling and a bunch of people arguing that its too much trouble to know where and what goes into food, and because its all good and profitable it will all work out OK.

    Yet, in the case of food poisioning we can trace food back to batches within ingrediants.

    The current GE acceptance strategy seems to be more a campaign to be allowed to HIDE information. To put up barriers to explain why they do not need to bother, why it's not really an issue, why it is really all OK.

    It sounds similar to the leaded petrol campaign. Leaded petrol was a really good (technical) advancement, but once concerns emerged about lead poisioning, the guy who invented it went around sniffing it in public to prove its saftey. In a case of poetic justice he contracted Polio.

    [The same guy invented CFCs and that took a long time before we worked out it was bad for the environment...]

    Perhaps an acceptable first step is to clarify how keen people are for this. If free choice is as important as progress...

    We also need to provide tighter definitions of the different types of GE modifications going on. It's a broad area, and some research and GE mods are not a big deal. Others are.

    How about we start labelling things: New Improved with EXTRA GE modifications. Because you asked for it, we've modified it. Glow in the dark cereal allows you to eat breakfast in the middle of the night.


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