Rich Keller
Rich Keller

As the West Nile virus became a major problem across the U.S. in August, cities and states realized they needed to react by controlling mosquitoes potentially carrying the virus. Activists against pesticide control of the mosquitoes were many of the same people against biotechnology.

The estimate was that tens of thousands of people were being bitten by the carrier mosquitoes, even though only around a thousand were confirmed to be sickened and the number of deaths was climbing toward 100.  As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained, only a small percentage of people become sick from a single bite, but the old and children are the most susceptible to become sick or die.

So, aerial spraying of a pesticide became the logical quick counter measure to the mosquitoes; Dallas was one of the first large metropolitan areas to conduct aerial spraying. What ensued was activists complaining that their health was being compromised by pesticides being released into the environment. Additionally, those against any synthetic pesticide being released into the environment complained the loudest.

One author reacted with an article titled “Organic activists endanger your health” and started the article off by writing, “Are organic activists preventing the effective control of mosquitoes in your area? Maybe it’s time to stand up to them because mosquitoes are more than a mere nuisance; they can be deadly!”

The author Mischa Popoff continued, “Dying from preventable diseases like West Nile virus and malaria is ‘natural,’ according to leaders of the organic movement. Better to let people die rather than resort to the use of synthetic substances to control mosquitoes.”

Popoff is described as a former organic farmer and an advanced organic farm and process inspector and author of the book “Is it Organic?” In his article, he notes that organic farmers are more worried about their land and crops being decertified as organic if an insecticide or larvicide lands on their property, even though Popoff claims that shouldn’t be the case.

The scientific solution to protect people from dying isn’t accepted by activists. This West Nile virus is a strong example, and another example just as relevant, in my way of thinking, is activists trying to keep Third World countries from growing or importing biotech food.  The activists would rather the poor people of undeveloped countries die rather than improve their food supply from biotech cropping.

Over the years, as biotech crops have been developed, an argument has been made that the crop improvements are simply ways for farmers to more easily grow crops and for the multinational crop protection companies to earn big profits.

Many of the activists in the earlier years of genetically modified organism research contended that biotech crops didn’t have a connection to improving people’s health and nutrition. Today, there are biotech crops being grown with improved nutrition and “pharming” has become a biotech practice for inserting genes into plants so that they produce pharmaceuticals. Yet, the activists continue to find fault with all biotech crop production.

Sacrificing lives to maintain the environment, as they perceive it must have been 300 years ago, is no reason to drop their opposition to biotech food and farming pharmaceuticals.

In other words, it is their contention that it is better to let people die from starvation and disease than to possibly impact the environment—even if that impact is seen as positive by the vast majority of the most educated and practical scientists and ecologists of the world.

The activists won’t go away until they, or someone dear to them, dies. Until then, they’ll ignore the starving and sick.