Ridley leads of this piece noting:
Generally, technologies are judged on their net benefits, not on the claim that they are harmless: The good effects of, say, the automobile and aspirin outweigh their dangers. ...
He goes on to explain that despite sensationalist stories about the negative impact of GM foods, the scientific peer-reviewed scientific data doesn't support it. The substantial benefits get short shrift:
... So to redress the balance [of negative coverage], I thought I'd look up the estimated benefits of genetically modified crops. After 15 years of GM planting, there's ample opportunity-with 17 million farmers on almost 400 million acres in 29 countries on six continents-to count the gains from genetic modification of crop plants. A recent comprehensive report by Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot for a British firm, PG Economics, gives some rough numbers. (The study was funded by Monsanto, which has major operations in biotech, but the authors say the research was independent of the company and published in two peer-reviewed journals.)
The most obvious benefit is yield increase. In 2010, the report estimates, the world's corn crop was 31 million tons larger and the soybean crop 14 million tons larger than it would have been without the use of biotech crops. The direct effect on farm incomes was an increase of $14 billion, more than half of which went to farmers in developing countries (especially those growing insect-resistant cotton). ...
He goes on to note benefits like less fuel usage, better health and safety for workers, shorter growing cycles, better quality of food, and nearly 1 billion less pounds of pesticide being used. Furthermore, because of several factors, there is less carbon-diosice emission. His final paragraph is the kicker.
There is a rich irony here. The rapidly growing use of shale gas in the U.S. has also driven down carbon-dioxide emissions by replacing coal in the generation of electricity. U.S. carbon emissions are falling so fast they are now back to levels last seen in the 1990s. So the two technologies most reliably and stridently opposed by the environmental movement-genetic modification and fracking-have been the two technologies that most reliably cut carbon emissions.
And to that final paragraph I might add the observation that many of those who are the most adamant about catastrophic anthropogenic climate change being unassailable science are most resistant to science that points the great benefits and relatively small downsides of things like GM crops and fourth generation nuclear power.