More than 100 Nobel laureates are taking on Greenpeace over its opposition to genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).
The group released the letter this week in support of GMOs, which was referred to as “precision agriculture.” The letter pays particular attention to the Greenpeace campaign against “Golden rice” — a variety of rice modified with beta-carotene, found abundantly in carrots, to boost the rice’s vitamin A content.
“We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against ‘GMOs.'”
The 107 laureates and other proponents of Golden rice argue it’s crucial to saving lives in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia — two regions the World Health Organization says are the hardest hit by vitamin A deficiency.
“How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a ‘crime against humanity’?” read the letter signed by the laureates.
The list of signatories includes winners from each of the five fields honoured with the Nobel prize — chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and peace.
“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, one of the organizers of the letter campaign, told The Washington Post Wednesday. “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.”
Greenpeace is fighting back, releasing a statement Thursday challenging the laureates’ letter and the claims about the benefits of Golden rice.
“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,” Greenpeace’s Southeast Asia campaigner Wilhelmina Pelegrina said in the statement.
According to a 2013 NPR article, a child could get 60 per cent of the vitamin A needed daily from just one bowl of rice. But, there have been roadblocks in getting the approvals needed to distribute Golden rice to farmers.
Greenpeace argues Golden rice is a threat to biodiversity and is “highly likely to contaminate” other varieties of rice that haven’t been genetically engineered.
The environmental group also calls Golden rice a “fake remedy for vitamin A deficiency.”
“The single-crop approach of GE ‘Golden’ rice could make malnutrition worse because it encourages a diet based solely on rice, rather than increasing access to a diverse diet of fruits and vegetables, considered crucial to combatting VAD and other nutrient deficiencies.”
But Greenpeace, on its website, didn’t present any specific ailments or risks to health that could be cause by consuming Golden rice — only that “if any hazardous effects would develop” other non-GMO varieties of rice could be contaminated.