Friday, April 15, 2005

Amish at Cutting Edge of Biotech

Living a traditional life does not mean rejecting the advances of science that can be applied compatibly to their lives. The Amish may reject cars, televisions, etc., but the Council for Biotechnology Information informs us that they are enthusiastic adopters of certain genetically enhanced crops. Link.
[A] growing number of Amish in Pennsylvania have been using genetically enhanced seeds because they see them as another tool to help them continue their traditional agrarian lifestyle.

"I myself like biotechnology," Amish farmer Daniel Dienner told the Associated Press. "I feel it's what the farmers will be using in the future."

Dienner is one of about 550 Amish farmers in Pennsylvania who have been growing a genetically enhanced, nicotine-free tobacco plant since 2001. Other Amish farmers have been growing a biotech potato, which is resistant to pests and viruses, on a test basis. (...)

Amish scholar Steven M. Nolt, an associate professor of history at Goshen College in Indiana, said he can't think of a reason why biotechnology would present a conflict with the Amish way of living.

"If it helped them to keep on farming small-scale farms, it would present a benefit," he said. "They don't dislike technology per se. They just avoid those technologies that might cause a diminishing of their family life or other strongly held beliefs."

"Amish law doesn't say anything about growing genetically modified tobacco," added Dienner in an interview with Wired magazine.

I got a huge kick out of seeing the Amish, usually thought of as quaint and so old fashioned, being light years ahead of the Europeans in accepting a useful piece of modern science. Not only do the Europeans bar their own farmers from planting genetically modified (GM) crops, but they have effectively banned Africans who hope to trade with the EU from planting GM crops either, contributing to starvation on that continent. It's a good thing that the Amish do not seek to trade with the EU.


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