The Golden Rice developed at IRRI ... food for the Filipinos, or is it?
By JUAN ESCANDOR JR
NAGA CITY:The destruction of the field trial of Golden Rice in Pili, Camarines Sur got the attention of the New York times on Aug 24 news analysis by Amy Harmon, with both the pros and cons played up.
Harmon cited opinions from scientists propagating genetically modified crops as well as concerns raised by groups and individuals against it but short of making a conclusion of considering the rationale of genetically engineered crops.
“The concerns voiced by the participants in the Aug. 8 act of vandalism -- that the Golden Rice could pose unforeseen risks to human health and the environment, that it would ultimately profit big agrochemical companies - are a familiar refrain in the long-running controversy over the merits of genetically engineered crops. They are driving the desire among some Americans for mandatory “GMO” labels on food with ingredients made from crops whose DNA has been altered in a laboratory.”
Harmon said that the concern of anti-GMO have motivated similar attacks on trials of other genetically modified crops including grapes designed to fight off deadly virus in France, wheat designed to have lower glycemic index in Australia, sugar beets in Oregon designed to tolerate a herbicide, to name a few.
She differentiated the Golden Rice, that appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 2000, from genetically engineered crops in wide use today as not designed to withstand herbicides or resist insect attacks.
“Not owned by any company, Golden Rice is being developed by nonprofit group called International Rice Research Institute with the aim of providing a new source of vitamin A to people both in the Philippines, where most households get most of their calories from rice, and eventually in many other places in a world where rice is eaten every day by half of the population.”
The GMO rice crop at an experimental farm in Pili, CamSur was destroyed by anti GMO rice protesters.
Harmon also pointed out the problem of blindness in a quarter-million to a half-million children each year because of lack of vital nutrients in Asia and Africa.
“The destruction of the field trial, and the reasons given for it, touched a nerve among scientists around the world, spurring them to counter assertion of the technology’s health and environmental risks.”
Harmon said that in a petition, scientists supporting the Golden Rice vented a simmering frustration with activist organizations like Greenpeace, which they see as playing on misplaced fears of genetic engineering in both the developing and the developed worlds.
She said that scientists convey to “American foodies and Filipino farmers alike the broad scientific consensus that G.M.O.’s are not intrinsically more risky than other crops and can be reliably tested.”
Harmon sees the seemingly high-minded purpose that the Golden Rice has drawn suspicion from biotechnology skeptics beyond the demonstrators who forced their way into the field trial.
She quoted Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva calling the Golden Rice a “Trojan horse” whose purpose was to gain public support for genetically modified crops that would benefit multinational corporations at the expense of poor farmers and consumers.
Harmon cited Michael Pollan, author of 2001 article The Great Yellow Hype and industrial agriculture critic, who suggested that the objective of the Golden Rice is “to win an argument rather than solve a public-health problem” because of an advertisement that it must be ingested in large quantities to deliver a meaningful dose of vitamin A.
“But the rice has since been retooled: a bowl now provides 60 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin A for healthy children. And Gerard Barry, the Golden Rice project leader of the International Rice Research Institute -- and, it must be said, a former senior scientist and executive at Monsanto-- suggests that attempt to discredit Golden Rice discounts the suffering it could alleviate if successful.
He said, too, that critics who suggest encouraging poor families to simply eat fruits and vegetables that contain beta carotene disregard the expense and logistical difficulties that would thwart such efforts.” – Bicol Mail