Subject: Greenpeace and Golden Rice
Dear Professor Potrykus,
I read with interest your letter 'Greenpeace and Golden Rice' of Thu, 15 Feb 2001 (as posted on the AgBioView list). I think the proponents and critics of Golden Rice need to address at least two issues before this controversy can be resolved.
Firstly, I am somewhat puzzled as to why you have concentrated almost solely upon dialogue with Greenpeace when it would seem far more important to focus on direct discussion with farmers and activist groups in Southern nations who question the relevance of the technology - after all, they are the ones being asked to grow and eat the product. Maybe you met with critical groups [such as TNWF (KRRS (Karnataka State Farmers Union); Tamil Nadu Women's Forum); SRED (Society for Rural Education and Development); PREPARE; Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology; and CIKS (Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems) to name but a few] when you were in India - but I can find no reference to this.
I know that just one of the concerns in the South is that even if Golden Rice were to achieve its intended aims, they fear that alleviation of another outward symptoms of poverty will just be used as yet another excuse for postponing any action to tackle the real causes of poverty - the principal cause of which is the landlessness and maldistribution of wealth caused by the Green Revolution. They fear that its approval will open the floodgates to other varieties of GM Rice - with the associated problems of terminator genes, restrictive patents, abolition of seed saving, pesticide dependence and indebtedness (both individual and national). Also many feel that the funds spent on and allocated for developing and cultivating Golden Rice could better be spent on promoting dietary diversification or tackling landlessness. Whilst I understand that you are a scientist and not a politician or economist, I encourage you to engage in open and direct dialogue with critics in the target nations.
Secondly, it is clear that much of the controversy in the West about Golden Rice is a result of attempts by the multinational agrochemical corporations to use it as a 'Trojan Horse' to ease approval of their own products. If an apparently beneficial product were to be rushed through the regulatory procedures for approval then this would set precedents that would enable the corporations to flood the world market with far less desirable products. [I believe you have expressed your own disgust at this kind of moral blackmail]. That is one of my own fears and I am sure that this is one of the underlying fears of Greenpeace. I cannot see how the dilemma resulting from this corporate marketing strategy can be resolved unless efforts are made to ensure that any attempts to approve Golden Rice are not used by others to reduce national and international regulations relating to GMOs or to shorten the normal assessment periods for GM products. I would therefore encourage you to do whatever you can to promote rigorous regulation of commercial GMOs and to condemn the 'Trojan Horse' strategy of the corporations.
"Greenpeace has identified a weak point in the strategy of using Golden Rice for reducing vitamin A-deficiency" Ingo Potrykus, 10 Feb 2001
"I agree with Dr Shiva that the public relations uses of golden rice have gone too far. " Rockefeller Foundation spokesman Gordon Conway
"I share Greenpeace's disgrace about the heavy PR campaign of some agbiotech companies..." Ingo Potrykus, 10 Feb 2001