Quantcast
Food

Greenpeace to Nobel Laureates: It’s Not Our Fault Golden Rice Has ‘Failed as a Solution’

Greenpeace was targeted Wednesday by more than 100 Nobel laureates who have signed a letter calling on the environmental group to end its campaign against genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

In the letter, Greenpeace is accused of leading "the fact-challenged propaganda campaign against innovations in agricultural biotechnology." The NGO's opposition on a particularly controversial GMO crop, golden rice, was put on blast.

Golden Rice, compared to conventional rice, has been genetically engineered to produce and accumulate provitamin A (β-carotene) in the grain.Golden Rice Project

In a separate post Why Greenpeace is Wrong about GMOs and Golden Rice, the campaign accuses Greenpeace of spearheading "opposition to golden rice, which has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia."

The laureates' letter argues that scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have "repeatedly and consistently" found GMO crops as safe for humans and animals for consumption as well as for the safety of the environment.

Organizers of the campaign held a press conference this morning at the National Press Conference in Washington to defend the letter.

"We're scientists. We understand the logic of science. It's easy to see what Greenpeace is doing is damaging and is anti-science," Richard Roberts, campaign organizer and the 1993 winner of the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with Phillip Sharp, told The Washington Post."Greenpeace initially, and then some of their allies, deliberately went out of their way to scare people. It was a way for them to raise money for their cause."

The golden rice project started roughly 20 years ago by German researchers. The GMO crop is developed to produce pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene) and is touted by proponents as a solution to vitamin A deficiencies prevalent in developing countries. The deficiency increases risk for infection, diseases and blindness.

Greenpeace, however, has deemed the golden rice project as "environmentally irresponsible, poses risks to human health, and could compromise food, nutrition and financial security." Because of this stance, proponents of golden rice have long attacked the organization for being "anti-science" and prolonging the suffering of children with VAD.

In response to the letter, Wilhelmina Pelegrina, a campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia told The Post that the organization was not blocking golden rice, as the initiative "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," she continued. "Corporations are overhyping golden rice to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops. 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."

She argues that the "only guaranteed solution" to fix malnutrition is a diverse, healthy diet: "Providing people with real food based on ecological agriculture not only addresses malnutrition, but is also a scaleable solution to adapt to climate change."

Pelegrina said that Greenpeace has documented communities across the Philippines that continue to express concerns about using golden rice as a solution. In the video below produced by the organization in 2014, Filipino community members speak about solutions to nutrient deficiencies that are already available in their country.

The use of genetically modified technology is highly contentious in the Philippines. In 2013, a group of about 400 protesters, which included local farmers and members of two anti-GMO groups—the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bikol (KMB) and the Sararong Inisyatiba nin Kahinwanmaan sa Wasakon ang Agrokemikals na Lasong-GMO (Sikwal-GMO)—destroyed an 800 square meter trial plot of golden rice that was weeks away from being sent to the authorities for a safety evaluation. The protesters said they uprooted and trampled the rice plants because they wanted to protect the health of the people and their environment.

"Greenpeace Philippines is already working with NGO partners and farmers in the Philippines to boost climate resiliency," Pelegrina said. "There's a real chance here for governments and the philanthropic community to support these endeavours by investing in climate-resilient ecological agriculture and empowering farmers to access a balanced and nutritious diet, rather than pouring money down the drain for GE 'golden' rice."

Incidentally, a Washington University study published last month in the journal Agriculture & Human Values argues that the benefits of biotechnology, particularly golden rice, may be overhyped.

Washington University anthropologist Glenn Stone and Dominic Glover, a rice researcher at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, argue in their paper that GMO activists should not be blamed for the slow introduction of golden rice.

"The rice simply has not been successful in test plots of the rice breeding institutes in the Philippines, where the leading research is being done," Stone told the university publication. "It has not even been submitted for approval to the regulatory agency, the Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI)."

Stone argues that the golden rice 2013 protest did not have any significant impact on the approval of the crop.

"Destroying test plots is a dubious way to express opposition, but this was only one small plot out of many plots in multiple locations over many years," he said. "Moreover, they have been calling golden rice critics 'murderers' for over a decade."

Although the Philippine Supreme Court recently issued a temporary suspension of GMO crop trials, which could definitely impact GMO crop development, Stone pointed out that "it's hard to blame the lack of success with golden rice on this recent action."

"Golden rice was a promising idea backed by good intentions," Stone said. "In contrast to anti-GMO activists, I argued that it deserved a chance to succeed. But if we are actually interested in the welfare of poor children—instead of just fighting over GMOs—then we have to make unbiased assessments of possible solutions. The simple fact is that after 24 years of research and breeding, Golden Rice is still years away from being ready for release."

Stone also said the Philippines has managed to slash the incidence of vitamin A deficiency by non-GMO methods.

Ken Roseboro, the editor and publisher of The Organic & Non-GMO Report and The Non-GMO Sourcebook, agrees that the failure of golden rice is not due to anti-GMO campaigns and that conventional agriculture presents viable solutions to VAD.

"As Glenn Davis Stone of Washington University recently documented, golden rice is failing, not because of activists attempts to block it, but to poor performance in field trials," Roseboro explained to EcoWatch via email. "Meanwhile, corn varieties with higher levels of vitamin A developed using non-GMO breeding methods are being grown in Africa and helping to address vitamin A deficiency there. But the press ignores this solution in favor of the failed techno-fix of golden rice."

He continued, "to say that GM crops are extensively tested is also not true since the FDA doesn't require safety testing of new GM crops and allows crop developers to voluntarily submit such safety data."

Ronnie Cummins, founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association, has spoken out against the Nobel laureates' letter as well.

"What this letter shows is that even Nobel Prize scientists don't know, or don't want to know, since they take money from Monsanto and their minions, anything about the obvious human health, environmental and climate damage inflicted by GMOs, and the toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers that always accompany them," Cummins told EcoWatch via email. "This is a perfect example of why the global grassroots have lost all faith in the bought and sold scientific, corporate and political establishment."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Glyphosate Given Last-Minute Approval Despite Failure to Secure Majority Support

Monsanto vs. People Power: EU Glyphosate License Set to Expire June 30

DARK Act Compromise Could Preempt Vermont's GMO Label Law

Monsanto Issued Two GMO Permits Despite Objection From 5 Million Nigerians

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Shutterstock

EPA: Perchlorate in Drinking Water Can Harm Fetal Brain Development

By Tom Neltner

Pursuant to a consent decree with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing drinking water regulations to protect fetuses and young children from perchlorate, a toxic chemical that inhibits the thyroid's ability to make the hormone T4 essential to brain development. The rulemaking is part of a long process that began in 2011 when the agency made a formal determination that Safe Drinking Water Act standards for perchlorate were needed. Under the consent decree, EPA should propose a standard by October 2018.

In the latest step in that process, EPA's scientists released a draft report in September that, at long last, answers questions posed by its Science Advisory Board in 2013: does perchlorate exposure during the first trimester reduce production of T4 in pregnant women with low iodine consumption? Does reduction in maternal T4 levels in these women adversely affect fetal brain development? According to EPA's scientists, the answers are Yes and Yes.

Keep reading... Show less
Cafeteria Culture

Ditch Plastic Lunches: Stand Up for Zero-Waste Schools

  • Carrots in a Ziploc
  • Grapes in a bag
  • Sandwich in saran wrap, with a "fresh daily" tag
  • Water bottle snuggled by an extra pair of socks
  • Plastic straw
  • Chips to gnaw
  • Juice in a box

That's an average American kids lunch stuffed in a school bag, with enough plastic packaging to wallpaper the classroom. Once it comes to school lunch, we don't practice what we preach, so let's unpackage what we teach.

Keep reading... Show less
Pexels

Trump's 'Hold' on Elephant Trophies May Not Be Enough

As many of you may have heard by now, President Donald Trump tweeted, and Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke reiterated, a decision late Friday night to put elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe "on hold" out of the belief that "conservation and healthy herds are critical."

This follows the administration's decision, on Thursday, to allow such imports after finding Zimbabwe's management of its elephant population "enhances the survival of the species" (referred to as a "positive enhancement finding") under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The announcement reversed the Obama-era suspension on such imports due to finding the opposite: that Zimbabwe was NOT successfully managing its elephant population.

Keep reading... Show less

Fracking Chemicals Remain Secret Despite EPA Knowledge of Health Hazards

By Tasha Stoiber

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knows that dozens of the chemicals used in fracking pose health hazards. The agency not only allows their use, but also lets the oil and gas industry keep the chemicals secret, according to a new report.

Between 2003 and 2014 the EPA identified health hazards for 41 chemicals used in fracking, according to a report from the Partnership for Policy Integrity and Earthworks, based on documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Fracking is the injection of a chemical slurry into drilling sites to free up underground oil and gas deposits. Hazards from the chemicals used included irritation to eyes and skin; harm to the liver, kidney and nervous system; and damage to the developing fetus.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Protesters in Bonn call on politicians to fight climate change. Spielvogel / Wikimedia Commons

Global Warming Timeline, Political Will: Top Questions After COP23

As the world increasingly looks to be on track for a catastrophic 3°C of global warming, world leaders and diplomats gathered in Bonn, Germany to turn the Paris agreement into a set of rules.

In that sense the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), which concluded on Saturday, accomplished its goal of keeping the process alive by setting up the rules that will be finalized next year in Poland. But the conference also kicked a number of issues down the road. The round of climate talks heard repeated calls for a more ambitious approach to slashing carbon emissions but did not initiate any conclusive solutions, though it should be noted that no major decisions were expected.

Keep reading... Show less
U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

Florida Schools' Food Waste Program: A Win-Win to Fight Hunger and Save the Environment

You've probably heard the unsettling stories of school cafeteria workers throwing away students' lunches over unpaid lunch bills, but schools in Orange County, Florida have come up with a genius solution to not only help feed hungry students and their communities, but to also cut down on food waste.

For the past two years, about 20 public elementary schools in the Florida county have been using "share tables" to great effect, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The program allows kids to place their unwanted food on designated tables so others can eat them. This means the food doesn't have to be thrown out. Instead, fellow students who are still hungry can just grab the food themselves off the tables.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Hurricane Harvey flooding. Jill Carlson / Flickr

Record Number of Americans 'Very Worried' About Climate Change

As someone who writes about the environment on a near-daily basis, the fact that a large chunk of Americans (about one in eight) reject the near scientific consensus of climate change can be a tough pill to swallow.

But after a year of record-breaking heatwaves, massive wildfires in the west, and a string of destructive hurricanes, it appears that my fellow U.S. citizens are waking up to the realities of our hot, new world, according to the latest nationally representative survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
iStock

Nursery Bans Glitter, Calls on Others to Follow Their Example

By Imogen Calderwood

Glitter is great, right? Particularly now that it's getting dark and cold and a bit depressing outside.

But, as much as we love glitter for making everything look festive, a chain of children's nurseries in the UK might actually have a point.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!