Ignorance as a basis for policy

Good; let’s everybody pile on Charles. He needs to be told his status doesn’t substitute for scientific training.

The heir to the throne may wish to use his privileged position to promote his organic produce while denigrating those of us who wish to use science to help feed the world. But he should at least do so from a position of scientific evidence rather than ideological dogma. He shows a common misunderstanding of how agricultural science works. What’s worse, though, is that his comments risk reinforcing the mistrust felt by much of the public about how their food is produced.

Because of who he is – which is exactly why he should be more cautious about mouthing off instead of less so. His irresponsibility is shocking to behold.

I am reminded of the suggestion made some time ago by Professor Steve Jones of University College London that the best thing the prince could do would be to take an A-level in biology: it would help him to understand the irrationality of his position.

Yes but that would be so plebeian. One isn’t just anyone, after all.

He also blames various ills on modern agriculture more generally – yet fails to see that GM technology could be the solution. He is worried, for instance, about the huge salination problems faced by farmers in many parts of the world. Soil becoming too salty is indeed a problem in places – but GM technology offers us the chance to develop crop varieties that will not just survive but thrive in such conditions.

Yes but you see – hem hem hem, excuse me I’m due at polo just now.

Not so fast Sir.

The Prince is as entitled to his views as anyone. What he is not entitled to do is share them with us. This has nothing to do with whatever merit they might or might not have. It has everything to do with the fact that one day he will be King…The attacks on further GM experiments – which, by definition, are designed to further our knowledge – expose the ignorance behind Prince Charles’s remarks. There is not a shred of evidence – not a jot, not a hint, not a fraction – that there is any risk from GM crops.

Yet his privileged position as next king means that his ignorant views get more exposure than those of people who know something about the subject. That’s bad, and the fact that he doesn’t seem to grasp this makes it worse. It doesn’t seem to cross his mind at all that he could be genuinely harming millions of people (could if his views are ever acted on, at least) and that he therefore ought to…shut up.

I’ve yet to hear Prince Charles decry the use of insulin for diabetics as a “real disaster”. But if he rejects, on principle, the idea of GM crops, he should, because the insulin used is genetically engineered – the human gene that codes for insulin has been transferred into bacteria and yeast, a process that involves crossing the species barrier. But then ignorance need not be consistent and when the Prince opens his mouth he serves only to advance the cause of an unthinking, irrational, ignorance as a basis for policy.

And that cause carries the risk of harming millions of people.

Charles and Bush should form a tiny little book group or something; they have a lot in common.

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