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A Crime Against Humanity: Block On GM Rice ‘Has Cost Millions of Lives And Led to Child Blindness’

The Observer

Eco groups and global treaty blamed for delay in supply of vitamin-A enriched Golden Rice

Stifling international regulations have been blamed for delaying the approval of a food that could have helped save millions of lives this century. The claim is made in a new investigation of the controversy surrounding the development of Golden Rice by a team of international scientists.

Golden Rice is a form of normal white rice that has been genetically modified to provide vitamin A to counter blindness and other diseases in children in the developing world. It was developed two decades ago but is still struggling to gain approval in most nations.

“Golden Rice has not been made available to those for whom it was intended in the 20 years since it was created,” states the science writer Ed Regis. “Had it been allowed to grow in these nations, millions of lives would not have been lost to malnutrition, and millions of children would not have gone blind.”

Vitamin A deficiency is practically unknown in the west, where it is found in most foods. For individuals in developing countries, however, vitamin A is a matter of life or death. Lack of it is believed to be responsible for killing more children than HIV, tuberculosis or malaria – around 2,000 deaths a day. On a global scale, about a third of children under five suffer from the condition which can also lead to blindness.

As a solution to this crisis, Peter Beyer, professor of cell biology at Freiburg University in Germany, and Ingo Potrykus of the Institute of Plant Sciences in Switzerland, turned to the new technology of genetic manipulation in the late 20th century. They inserted genes for a chemical known as beta-carotene into the DNA of normal rice. In this way, they modified the rice genes so that the plants started to make beta-carotene, a rich orange-coloured pigment that is also a key precursor chemical used by the body to make vitamin A.

“In Bangladesh, China, India and elsewhere in Asia, many children subsist on a few bowls of rice a day and almost nothing else. For them, a daily supply of Golden Rice could now bring the gift of life and sight,” states Regis in his book, Golden Rice, which is published this month.

Unfortunately, that daily supply has not materialised – and Regis is clear where the blame lies. For a start, many ecology action groups, in particular Greenpeace, have tried to block approval of Golden Rice because of their general opposition to GM crops. “Greenpeace opposition to Golden Rice was especially persistent, vocal, and extreme, perhaps because Golden Rice was a GM crop that had so much going for it,” he states.

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see also: 100 Nobel laureates warn Greenpeace of “crime against humanity” on GMOs

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”?