When we discussed the current scientific status of GMOs recently, we cited the example of “golden rice” — a strain of rice bioengineered to have more vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiencies kill 670,000 children a year, and leave thousands more suffering from damaged vision. Greenpeace, however, remains opposed to it, and a group of Nobel laureates are calling them out.
Announced Wednesday, it’s an effort organized by Richard Roberts to clear the way for golden rice and to generally call Greenpeace out for its attitude on GMOs — especially when they can save human lives. The end of the letter rather pointedly accuses Greenpeace of crimes:
WE CALL UPON GREENPEACE to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general;
WE CALL UPON GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD to reject Greenpeace’s campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general; and to do everything in their power to oppose Greenpeace’s actions and accelerate the access of farmers to all the tools of modern biology, especially seeds improved through biotechnology. Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped.
How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”?
Currently, 110 Nobel laureates have signed the letter. There are 296 currently living Nobel winners, so right now, roughly a third of people who have won science’s highest honor still living are telling Greenpeace to knock it off.
If you were wondering whether or not Greenpeace had perhaps taken this to heart, they released a statement essentially accusing golden rice of being a false flag operation:
Accusations that anyone is blocking genetically engineered ‘Golden’ rice are false. ‘Golden’ rice has failed as a solution and isn’t currently available for sale, even after more than 20 years of research. As admitted by the International Rice Research Institute, it has not been proven to actually address Vitamin A Deficiency. So to be clear, we are talking about something that doesn’t even exist.
Corporations are overhyping ‘Golden’ Rice to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops. This costly experiment has failed to produce results for the last 20 years and diverted attention from methods that already work. Rather than invest in this overpriced public relations exercise, we need to address malnutrition through a more diverse diet, equitable access to food and eco-agriculture.
There are a few problems with that statement. The first is that, uh, it has been proven to address vitamin A deficiency. The second is that it’s never been available for sale, but available for free, as that was kind of the whole point of the exercise. Also, Greenpeace — which delivered this statement from the Philippines — oddly seems to have forgotten the time that anti-GMO activists destroyed a patch of golden rice, much to the fury of local farmers who believed destroying rice plants was bad luck.
Is it fair to argue that the vitamin A deficiency problem needs more than just golden rice? Indeed it is. Golden rice is not a magic bullet, and few are truly advocating for such a thing. On the other hand, when thousands of lives are on the line, it’s hard to fault scientists for believing we should use every tool we can get.
(Via the Washington Post)