"I share Greenpeace's disgrace about the heavy PR campaign of some agbiotech companies..." Ingo Potrykus, 10 Feb 2001
Ingo Potrykus, the creator of 'Golden Rice', has issued a statement in response to Greenpeace's internet release "GENETICALLY ENGINEERED 'GOLDEN RICE' IS FOOL'S GOLD". It contains some interesting admissions.
1. Potrykus comments - excerpts + url for full statement
2. Greenpeace 'fool's gold' statement -- complete with references
3. A 'fool's guide' in 5 headlines -- UK media spin (see Telegraph!)
4. More background docs on golden rice -- url --- 1. Potrykus comments - excerpts + url for full statement
Ingo Potrykus in his response to Greenpeace's "GENETICALLY ENGINEERED 'GOLDEN RICE' IS FOOL'S GOLD" (see item 2) says he is "working on an increase in provitamin A concentration" in golden rice and has "good reasons to believe, that the approach has a fair chance to be successful." He admits though, "We have to be patient for a few years, until this can be verified or falsified."
He also admits:
*I am happy to acknowledge, that Greenpeace is arguing on a rational basis.
*I also acknowledge, that Greenpeace has identified a weak point in the strategy of using Golden Rice for reducing vitamin A-deficiency.
*I confirmed at the above mentioned press conference (and I repeat it here), that my views are identical to those of Greenpeace in this respect, and that I share Greenpeace's disgrace about the heavy PR campaign of some agbiotech companies using results from our experiments, which were exclusively done within public research institutions, and using exclusively public funding.
Full Statement from Potrykus http://agbioview.listbot.com/cgi-bin/subscriber?Act=view_message&list_id=ag bioview&msg_num=979&start_num=
2. GENETICALLY ENGINEERED 'GOLDEN RICE' IS FOOL'S GOLD
Statement from Greenpeace, 9 February 2001
Manila/Amsterdam: Genetically engineered "Golden Rice" containing provitamin A will not solve the problem of malnutrition in developing countries according to Greenpeace. The Genetic Engineering (GE) industry claims vitamin A rice could save thousands of children from blindness and millions of malnourished people from vitamin A deficiency (VAD) related diseases. But a simple calculation based on the product developers' own figures show an adult would have to eat at least twelve times the normal intake of 300 grams to get the daily recommended amount of provitamin A.(1)
Syngenta, one of the world's leading genetic engineering companies and pesticide producers, which owns many patents on the "Golden Rice", claims a single month of marketing delay of "Golden Rice" would cause 50.000 children to go blind.(2)
Greenpeace calculations show however, that an adult would have to eat at least 3.7 kilos of dry weight rice, i.e. around 9 kilos of cooked rice, to satisfy his/her daily need of vitamin A from "Golden Rice". In other words, a normal daily intake of 300 gram of rice would, at best, provide 8% percent of the vitamin A needed daily. A breast-feeding woman would have to eat at least 6.3 kilos in dry weight, converting to nearly 18 kilos of cooked rice per day. (3)
"It is clear from these calculations that the GE industry is making false promises about "Golden Rice". It is a nonsense to think anyone would or could eat this much rice, and there is still no proof that it can provide any significant vitamin benefits anyway," said Greenpeace Campaigner Von Hernandez in the Philippines, where the first grains of the genetically engineered rice had been delivered to the International Rice Research Institute last month for breeding into local rice varieties. "This whole project is actually based on what can only be characterised as intentional deception. We recalculated their figures again and again, we just could not believe serious scientists and companies would do this."
In addition, one of the main sponsors of "Golden Rice", the Rockefeller Foundation, has told Greenpeace the GE industry has "gone too far" in its promotion of the product. While upholding its principal support for the project, Rockefeller Foundation President Gordon Conway, wrote to Greenpeace: "[*] the public relations uses of Golden Rice have gone too far. 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."(4).
"The European markets have resoundingly rejected GE products, consumers worldwide don't want them in their food, and the industry is desperate for alternative markets. "Golden Rice" has been presented as a quick fix for a global problem. It isn't, and the cash-driven propaganda about the product is swamping attempts to enforce existing effective solutions, and carry out further work on other sustainable, reliable methods to address the problem," added Hernandez.
Genetically engineered rice does not address the underlying causes of vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which are mainly poverty and lack of access to a more diverse diet. For the short-term, measures such as supplementation (i.e. pills) and food fortification are cheap and effective. Promoting the use and the access to food naturally rich in provitamin A, such as red palm oil, will also help addressing the VAD related sufferings. The only long-term solution is to work on the root causes of poverty and to ensure access to a diverse and healthy diet. (5)
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
For more information: Von Hernandez, Greenpeace GE campaigner in the Philippines, Mob: +63 917 5263050; Isabelle Meister, Genetic Engineering Campaign, Greenpeace International, Tel: +41-1-4474195; Greenpeace International Press Office, Sara Holden, Tel: +31-20-5249592
Pictures available from Greenpeace International Photo Desk, Tel: +31 20 55249580.
Notes to Editors United Nations' World Health Organisation/Food and Agriculture Organisation and the US National Academy of Science recommendations on daily vitamin A intake.
Dr Adrian C Dubock, of Zeneca Plant Science (now Syngenta): "The levels of expression of pro-vitamin A that the inventors were aiming at, and have achieved, are sufficient to provide the minimum level of pro-vitamin A to prevent the development of irreversible blindness affecting 500.000 children annually, and to significantly alleviate Vitamin A deficiency affecting 124.000.000 children in 26 countries." "One month delay = 50,000 blind children month." at a conference on "Sustainable Agriculture in the New Millennium" in Brussels, May 28-31, 2000.
Greenpeace briefing paper "Vitamin A: Natural Sources vs Golden Rice" and "The false promise of GE rice" and the letter to Greenpeace UK , January 22nd, 2001 are available at: www.greenpeace.org/~geneng/
(5) Nutritionists have pointed out that numerous problems converge to cause vitamin A deficiency. In a recent letter to the New York Times, Dr. Marion Nestle noted that "conversion of beta carotene to vitamin A, and transport in the body to the tissues that use vitamin A, require diets adequate in fat and protein. People whose diets lack these nutrients or who have intestinal diarrheal diseases - common in developing countries - can not obtain Vitamin A from Golden Rice."
3. A 'fool's guide' to media spin in 5 headlines
UK newspaper editorial positions on GM crops are neatly captured by their reporting of Greenpeace's concerns about the promotion of golden rice.
Biotech boosters like Bill Clinton have claimed that the untested rice (which even its original backers the Rockefeller Foundation have admitted thay "do not consider... to be the solution to the vitamin A deficiency problem") could "save 4,000 lives a day". And Syngenta, the gene giant which owns many of the patents on the rice, even claimed that a single month of marketing delay would cause 50,000 children to go blind.
Greenpeace's concerns were fairly accurately reflected in The Times Of India's headline: "Greenpeace protests marketing of GE rice". The Times of London, however, had a somewhat different spin!
As for the Daily Telegraph, it managed to transform a powerful critique of industry spin which has won the (perhaps grudging!) support of even Potrykus as well as the Rockefeller Foundation, into Greenpeace in full retreat:
"GREENPEACE backed down from its stand against GM crops yesterday by admitting that it would not oppose field trials of "golden" rice, being developed to combat blindness in the Third World.
The environmental group has been stung by claims that 50,000 people go blind for each month that the rice, enriched with vitamin A, is delayed. In Britain, the group has campaigned vigorously against GM crops. Activists including Lord Melchett, a former Greenpeace chief, have sabotaged field trials because they fear that the crops could lead to "genetic pollution".
However, the group's opposition has been criticised because its fears of ill-defined risks could hinder attempts to combat Third World hunger."
Here are yesterday's headlines (with urls for those items not previously sent out in full on the ngin list):
**GM rice promoters 'have gone too far'** The Guardian
**Greenpeace promises not to halt trials of GM vitamin rice** The Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/news/UK/Environment/2001-02/gmrice100201.shtml
**Greenpeace declares Golden Rice ceasefire** Financial Times http://news.ft.com/ft/gx.cgi/ftc?pagename=View&c=Article&cid=FT3A14550JC&live=true&useoverridetemplate=ZZZ3XDHE90C&tagid=ZZZJIU2RA0C
**Greenpeace approves moral goals of GM rice** The Times
**Greenpeace backs down on GM rice protests** The Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=000579381554028&rtmo=VDMSsg8K&atmo=99999999&pg=/et/01/2/10/ngree10.html ---
4. The following are available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng/
*Golden Rice: Reality Vs Fiction backgrounder (download pdf document)
*Letter from the Rockefeller Foundation (download pdf document)
*Vitamin A: Natural Sources vs Golden Rice backgrounder (download pdf document)
*The false promise of genetically engineered rice (download pdf document)