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golden-rice-hero

At the heart of the modern environmentalist movement is a contempt, a repugnance toward humanity. Attempts to ban DDT are responsible for the deaths of millions of Africans, but merely collateral damage to the greenists who consider imaginary damage to the environment of a higher value than human lives.

Genetically modified foods will be the next battlefront…and it is already littered with maimed and dead children and women.

After a delay of 12 years caused by opponents of genetically modified foods, so-called “Golden Rice” with vitamin A will be grown in the Philippines. During the 12-year delay, 8 million children have died due to vitamin A deficiency. “Are anti-GM advocates not partly responsible?” asks Bjørn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, and the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It.

Patrick Moore characterizes Greenpeace’s vehement campaign against Golden Rice as a “crime against humanity.” Moore is a co-founder of Greenpeace who broke with the NGO (non-governmental agencies) over its GM policy and now serves as Chair and Chief Scientist with Greenspirit Strategies in Vancouver, Canada.

Three billion people depend upon rice as their main source of food of which 10 percent are at risk for vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) weakens the immune system, increasing the risk of infections such as measles and malaria. Severe deficiencies lead to corneal ulcers or blindness. According to the World Health Organization, VAD is the cause of 250,000 to 500,000 children going blind each year. Half of these children die within a year. Additionally in Asia and Africa, almost 600,000 vitamin A-deficient women die from childbirth-related causes.

Golden Rice was created in the 1990′s by Peter Beyer, professor for cell biology at Freiburg University in Germany, and Ingo Potrykus of the Institute of Plant Sciences in Switzerland. This new variety was produced by splicing two genes into white rice so that it produces beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. One gene comes from the daffodil, lending it’s golden color to the rice. The other gene comes from a bacterium that helps the rice produce beta carotene. The body produces vitamin A from beta carotene.

This scientific discovery was hailed by some as the cure to vitamin A deficiency but derided by anti-GM campaigners such as Greenpeace and Naomi Klein. Such vehement protests and activism have thwarted efforts for 12 years to bring this genetically engineered rice into the parts of the world that so desperately need it.

Indian environmental activist and advisor to the government, Vandana Shiva, has called golden rice “a hoax.” He states, “The problem is that vitamin A rice will not remove vitamin A deficiency (VAD). It will seriously aggravate it. It is a technology that fails in its promise.”

Vandana Shiva would rather have her people in India starve than eat bioengineered food,” says C.S. Prakash, a professor of plant molecular genetics at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

Even after two studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that just 50 grams (approximately two ounces) of Golden Rice can provide 60% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, opponents continue to maintain that there are better ways to deal with VAD. Greenpeace recently released a statement saying that Golden Rice is “neither needed nor necessary,” and believes supplementation and fortification is the “cost-effective” solution to VAD.

According to Bjørn Lomborg, supplementation programs costs $4,300 for every life saved in India and fortification programs cost about $2,600 for every life saved. Golden Rice would cost just $100 for every life saved from VAD.

Such information was dismissed. Even a successful four year old study conducted in China that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in August didn’t dampen Greenpeace’s campaign against Golden Rice. In fact, it put “Greepeace’s disinformation campaign into overdrive.” The Asian office of Greenpeace issued a disturbing press release headlined, “24 children used as guinea pigs in genetically engineered ‘Golden Rice’ trial.”

Greenpeace is also vigorously campaigning to block Golden Rice trials in Southeast Asia. Greenpeace’s solution to VAD are vitamin pills, organic gardening, and political empowerment over using readily available food.

Mark Lynas an environmental campaigner and one of the founders of the anti-GM crop movement has publicly apologized for his opposition to planting of GM crops in Britain. He now says that Greenpeace’s actions are “immoral and inhumane” because it deprives “the needy of something that would help them and their children because of the aesthetic preferences of rich people far away.

Greenpeace and many others claim that the proliferation of GM foods will merely give big companies like Monsanto monopoly-like power. Lomborg responds that that this is putting the cart before the horse. What Greenpeace and anti-GM activists have inadvertently done is essentially allow only big companies to compete in the GM market. The approval process has become so long and costly only rich companies can afford to see it through.

monsanto

These types of photos have been floating around Facebook, building anti-GM sentiment. People were becoming anti-Monsanto and anti-GM just due to these photos. To date there has been no documented human health effects from GM foods. A story that has been repeated by others including Shiva is that GM corn with Bt toxin kills Monarch butterflies. Receiving little press are the several peer-reviewed studies that have established that “the impact of Bt corn pollen from current commercial hybrids on monarch butterfly populations is negligible.”

In 2010, the European Commission, after considering 25 years of GMO research, concluded that “there is as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.

While Golden Rice was developed over ten years at the miniscule total cost of $2.6 million, in an extraordinary public-private partnership using funds donated by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Swiss Federation, the National Science Foundation, and the European Union, Greenpeace International alone annually spends $270 million annually, and upwards of $7 million each year specifically dedicated to burying Golden Rice and and many other food or crop developed using biotechnology.

~ Jon Entine, senior fellow at the Center for health and Risk Communication and executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project

And not coming as any surprise, Greenpeace is already protesting that “the next ‘Golden Rice’ guinea pigs might be Filipino children.” Lomborg thinks that the 4.4 million Filipino children with vitamin A deficiency might not mind so much.

This is the question that was posed by Ismail Serageldin, the director of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research at the annual meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science last February:

I ask opponents of biotechnology, do you want 2 to 3 million children a year to go blind and 1 million to die of vitamin A deficiency, just because you object to the way golden rice was created?

And I find myself asking the same question.

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