Monday, August 2, 1999
In a bid to respond to market forces that it acknowledges do
not yet exist, Novartis Consumer Health has decided to rid its Gerber baby
food products of GM ingredients. The company, which has a 70 percent market
share in the U.S., denies that the action resulted from a single faxed complaint
from Greenpeace, as was reported last week. But its decision represents another
pathetic response to the bare-knuckles fear-mongering aimed at creating distrust
throughout society about biotechnology, the consumer protection regulatory agencies,
and the commercialization of science in general.
Indeed, it is tempting to conclude that Greenpeace, Friends
of the Earth and their allies have won the war. It is unquestionably true that
they have learned well how to press the buttons that have led the British media
to adopt their cry; to co-opt the British Medical Society and the Lancet
into endorsing their logic, to insinuate into the common wisdom the unfounded
scientific "evidence" about the monarch butterfly; and to cow the regulators
into silence. In its move on Gerber, Greenpeace now has played the "save-the-children"
card, the ultimate brickbat of the 1990s.