Greenpeace: Golden rice over-hyped
Grain is not solution to malnutrition
Bangkok Post, Feb 11, 2001
Genetically engineered golden rice will not solve the problem of malnutrition in developing countries, says Greenpeace.
The genetic engineering industry claims the product could save thousands of children from blindness and millions of malnourished people from vitamin A deficiency-related diseases.
First grains were delivered to the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines last month for breeding into local rice varieties.
The rice was delivered from laboratories in Europe, after the companies which funded the research-Syngenta Seeds AG, Syngenta Ltd, Bayer AG, Monsanto Inc, Orynova BV, and Zeneca Mogen BV-donated the intellectual property rights.
Each company has licensed free-of-charge technology to permit further study.
Subject to that research, initially in the developing countries of Asia, as well as to local regulatory clearances, "golden rice" could eventually be made available free-of-charge for humanitarian uses in developing nations.
Professor Ingo Potrykus, a co-inventor, said vitamin A deficiency was an important health problem for which there was no remedy. "Peter Beyer [the other inventor] and I are very pleased that these companies have provided essential support to assist our long-held intent of donating this potentially beneficial invention," he said.
But Greenpeace believes golden rice has been over-hyped. Based on the developer's own figures, it says an adult would have to eat at least 12 times the normal rice intake of 300 grammes to get the daily recommended intake of provitamin A.
Syngenta, one of the world's leading genetic engineering companies and pesticide producers, which owns many patents on golden rice, said that to delay marketing for one month could cost many children their eyesight.
Greenpeace figures, however, suggested that an adult would have to eat at least 3.7kg of dry-weight rice, (around 9kg of cooked rice), to satisfy his/her daily need of vitamin A.
"It is clear from these calculations that the industry is making false promises about golden rice. It is ridiculous to think anyone would or could eat this much rice daily, and there is still no proof that it can provide any significant vitamin benefits anyway," said Von Hernandez, campaign director for Greenpeace in Southeast Asia.
Auaiporn Suthonthanyakorn, Greenpeace campaigner in Thailand, said malnourishment and famine was the result of unfair resource distribution, not a lack of genetically modified plants.
"Syngenta and its pro-biotech cohorts should stop exploiting the issues of malnutrition and hunger for their self-serving agenda of promoting a dangerous technology which has potentially irreversible consequences to the environment and human health."The Rockefeller Foundation, a major sponsor of the Vitamin A rice research project, had admitted in a letter to Greenpeace that "the public relations uses of golden rice have gone too far".
Rockefeller Foundation president Gordon Conway told Greenpeace that "the industry's advertisements and the media in general seem to forget that it is a research product that needs considerable further development before it will be available to farmers and consumers."