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Don't Let the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good

That's how I'd sum up Matt Ridley's excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal.  He starts by arguing that:

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. Today, arguably, adopting certain new technologies is harder not just because of a policy of precaution but because of a bias in much of the media against reporting the benefits.

He rightly argues that negative articles on topics like biotechnology and shale gas make catchier headlines and drown out all the positive information.  Case in point?

 A recent French study claimed that both pesticides and GM corn fed to cancer-susceptible strains of rats produced an increase in tumors. The study has come in for withering criticism from mainstream scientists for its opaque data, small samples, unsatisfactory experimental design and unconventional statistical analysis, yet it has still gained headlines world-wide. (In published responses, the authors have stood by their results.)
The French study contradicts a Japanese paper that used larger samples, longer trials and accepted experimental designs, yet received virtually no notice because it found no increase in cancer in rats fed on GM crops. This is a problem that’s bedeviled GM technology from the start: Studies that find harm are shouted from the media rooftops, those that do not are ignored.

He goes on to document the potential environmental benefits from GMOs.   

While no one would argue we should ignore the potential dangers of new technologies (particularly biotechnologies), it would be equally crazy to ignore their potential benefits.