Thursday, 19 April 2012

Fracking: the GM food of the 2010s

I want to post about a fantastic article posted on the BBC website in the aftermath of Tuesday's shale gas announcements. Link to it here. In it the author (Richard Black, the BBC's Environment Correspondent) compares the development and public opposition to shale gas to that experienced by GM foods in the mid 90s.

When GM foods first appeared in Europe, there was a huge negative public backlash. Scare stories about Frankenstein-foods that would give us all cancer and genetic diseases while wiping out all non-GM flora abounded. This, despite all the scientific evidence that showed there was (a) nothing dangerous about GM food, and (b) that there were huge potential advantages in making food cheaper for us at home, and in improving food production rates (in a developing world still full of very hungry people). However, the scare stories and the publicity stunts carried out by anti-GM activists were sufficient to see GM foods essentially scrapped across the whole of Europe.

10 years down the line, we can see how silly all the anti-GM propaganda was. GM foods are now commonplace around the world - they haven't made anyone sick and they haven't taken over the world by wiping out all non-GM fauna. The Day of the Triffids has not come to pass.

We are now seeing a very similar story developing with shale gas and fracking. With the promise of fracking coming to Europe, scare stories of destroyed landscapes, polluted water supplies, crust-ripping earthquakes, and even volcanos are making their way around the media, based on little scientific evidence. Anti-fracking groups are now widespread, with little understanding of the science behind fracking, and little desire to understand it, preferring to promote their scare-story propaganda rather than sit down and have a rational debate about genuine fracking-related issues. And their publicity stunts may well be effective enough to see that Europe becomes a no-fracking zone, much as it is already a no-GM zone.

Anyway, I thought it was a really insightful article. Well done BBC.

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