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Organic food, genetically engineered food, world hunger, science and me – a mini mission statement.

November 11th, 2009 | Posted in Blog | 3 Comments
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Now that I have spoken about "Denialism"  on a few radio and television broadcasts, it has become clear that certain questions and comments arise with regularity. Nothing seems to enflame people more than my assertion – conviction really – that we need to use the tools of biotechnology to address the problem of world hunger; more than that, I believe those same tools can help us cope with the rapidly growing population of the earth –  within 40 years this planet will have to feed 9 billion people, half again as many as we have today. 

I address these issues at length in the book, but for those who see a snippet on television or catch a summary in a review let me just be categorical:  I am not opposed to organic food, nor do I see genetically engineered food as a panacea for the problems of the developing world. I buy organic food myself – because I think it tastes good and I live in the part in the rich West where cost is not an issue. I prefer local to organic and while they are often confused, they are not always the same thing. I do not think animals should be raised on hormones and antibiotics and certainly don't think we should eat them if they have been.  To be honest, though, I am not as preoccupied with the culinary obsessions of America as I am with the growing hunger that persists in the developing world.

That a billion people go to bed hungry every night – a number that is growing -is one of the abiding scandals of our time. Can genetically altered food make that problem disappear? Of course not. We need good government, less corruption, training, roads, and above all, ample clean water. But I do believe that biotechnology is one of the tools we must employ. Next Monday, the world leaders will come together in Rome for a World Summit on Food Security. As they have before, they will talk about the best way to eliminate hunger. There will be plenty of people screaming that genetically engineered food will kill us all. And plenty will scream back that without that food the developing world won't survive.

Isn't it time to stop shouting into the wind and work together to create a sustainable world that can feed its inhabitants? Let us rely on data and experience to help figure out the best way to do that. Any other approach is bound to fail.

Big Foot

February 28th, 2008 | Posted in The New Yorker, Articles | No Comments
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Download the PDF In measuring carbon emissions, it's easy to confuse morality and science.
by Michael Specter

A little more than a year ago, Sir Terry Leahy, who is the chief executive of the Tesco chain of supermarkets, Britain’s largest retailer, delivered a speech to a group called the Forum for the Future, about the implications of climate change. Leahy had never before addressed the issue in public, but his remarks left little doubt that he recognized the magnitude of the problem. “I am not a scientist,” he said. “But I listen when the scientists say that, if we fail to mitigate climate change, the environmental, social, and economic consequences will be stark and severe. . . . There comes a moment when it is clear what you must do. I am determined that Tesco should be a leader in helping to create a low-carbon economy. Read more »

Fashion Cafeteria

September 27th, 2004 | Posted in The New Yorker, Articles | No Comments
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Download the PDF Where everyone goes in Paris after the shows are over.
by Michael Specter

One evening not long ago, I wandered down the Rue de Richelieu on my way to a Chinese restaurant called Dave, which is recommended regularly by people in the fashion business. Like many popular restaurants in Paris, reservations are hard to get at Dave. So I wasn't surprised to find a Complet sign hanging over the lacquered red door. Inside, though, the place was practically empty—there was just one couple, sitting at a table near the window. A rumpled, unshaven Chinese man of indeterminate age emerged from the kitchen. Read more »