It always catches our attention when a prominent environmentalist comes down on the side of agriculture. As mentioned in previous columns, CAFA was formed after concerned growers and industry members met with an environmentalist and author who listed alfalfa as one of five crops that shouldn't be grown in the West.

The environmentalist we recently learned more about is Patrick Moore, a former Greenpeace founding member. His Web site, www.greenspirit.com, was launched in 1996 and tackles issues that include agriculture, the timber industry and aquaculture. The latter topic on the Web site has an article entitled, “Framed Salmon, How Activists Use Food Scare Tactics to Damage Salmon Agriculture.”

Perhaps Moore has escaped our attention, but we don't recall him being asked to comment in the mainstream media, in print or on the tube. It seems like the media always trot out the same talking heads who paint agriculture and other industries as villains.

In any event, it's refreshing to have a dedicated environmentalist take a favorable view on issues such as biotechnology. When Roundup Ready alfalfa is widely planted, we'll no doubt be hearing from the extremists.

Moore's views on biotechnology are interesting and well thought out. For example, he discusses “the case of Golden Rice” and the benefits it will provide. “Hundreds of millions of people in Asia and Africa suffer from Vitamin A deficiency,” he writes. “Among them, half a million children lose their eyesight each year, and millions more suffer from lesser symptoms. Golden Rice has the potential to greatly reduce the suffering, because it contains the gene that makes daffodils yellow, infusing the rice with beta-carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A. Ingo Potrykus, the Swiss co-inventor of Golden Rice, has said that a commercial variety is now available for planting, but that it will be at least five years before Golden Rice will be able to work its way through the byzantine regulatory system that has been set up as a result of the activists' campaign of misinformation and speculation. So the risk of not allowing farmers in Africa and Asia to grow Golden Rice is that another 2.5 million children will probably go blind.”

Moore also defends Bt cotton and challenges a negative report from environmentalists after the variety was planted in China. He cited two professors who pointed out that: “The greatest environmental impact of Bt cotton was…a significant reduction (70-80 percent) of the chemical pesticide use. It is known that pesticides used in cotton production in China are estimated to be 25 percent of the total amount of pesticides used in all the crops. By using Bt cotton in 2000 in Shandong province alone, the reduction of pesticide use was 1,500 tons. It not only reduced the environmental pollution,” they continued, “but also reduced the rate of harmful accidents to humans and animals caused by the overuse of pesticides.”

Moore's Web site is a breathe of fresh air for anyone looking for a common sense approach to balancing environmental needs and the need to provide for a rapidly expanding global population.