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Posted on: Friday, January 13, 2006

Greenpeace co-founder praises global warming

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

Genetically engineered sugarcane grows in a culture at the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center in 'Aiea. Hawai'i is one of the top U.S. sites for genetically modified crop research, attracting much debate.

ADVERTISER LIBRARY PHOTO | Oct. 15, 2003

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Global warming and nuclear energy are good and the way to save forests is to use more wood.

That was the message delivered to a biotechnology industry gathering yesterday in Waikiki. However, it wasn't the message that was unconventional, but the messenger � Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore. Moore said he broke with Greenpeace in the 1980s over the rise of what he called "environmental extremism," or stands by environmental groups against issues such as genetic crop research, genetically modified foods and nuclear energy that aren't supported by science or logic.

Hawai'i, which is one of the top locations nationwide for genetically modified crop research, has become a focal point in the debate about the risks and value of such work. Friction between environmentalists and other concerned groups and the biotech industry surfaced most recently in relation to the use of local crops to grow industrial and pharmaceutical compounds. Last year that opposition halted a Big Island project planning to use algae for trial production of pharmaceutical drugs.

Zero-tolerance standards against such research by environmental groups delay developments that could help those with unmet basic needs, Moore said. Instead Moore called for compromise rather than confrontation on the part of the environmentalists.

"There's no getting away from the fact that over 6 billion people wake up each day on this planet with real needs for food, energy and materials," he told those attending a luncheon at a three-day Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy.

The event was sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Sponsors included Dupont, Carghill and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, which spent $15,000 to support the conference.

In direct opposition to common environmentalist positions, Moore contended that global warming and the melting of glaciers is positive because it creates more arable land and the use of forest products drives up demand for wood and spurs the planting of more trees. He added that any realistic plan to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the emission of so-called greenhouse gases should include increased use of nuclear energy.

Among the 300 or so members in the audience yesterday was Henry Curtis, executive director for environmental group Life of the Land. Curtis said he found Moore's comments "interesting."

"He's obviously thought about things," Curtis said. "But I don't buy a lot of his arguments.

"I think the movement dealing with (genetically modified organisms) is very wide. You can't just say everybody that's against it is against it for this reason and they're totally against it.

"Part of what we're doing in the environmental movement is safeguarding the downsides," Curtis added. "We don't want to see a downside that we don't anticipate overwhelming the system."

Reach Sean Hao at shao@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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