NOTE: The following letter, which hasn't been published, was sent to The Observer about last Sunday's article by Robin McKie, "After 30 years, is a GM food breakthrough finally here?".
McKie has always been staunchly pro-GM and the limitations of his journalism are reflected in his reference in the article to "Mark Lynas... one of the founders of the anti-GM crop movement." Dubock, who seems to have been McKie's source, used to work for Syngenta.
The Golden Rice Missionaries -- blind faith, and not much science
Robin McKie's gratuitous puff for GM crops in general and Golden Rice in particular continues your newspaper's GM campaign, which I am at a loss to understand. McKie has simply regurgitated the material fed to him by Adrian Dubock and the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, and he appears not to have done any of the research which we have a right to expect from a senior journalist.
He fails to understand that the key reason for the global opposition to Golden Rice is that the developers have never even tried to demonstrate that it is safe to eat. They never publicise the fact that it is a GM product. It is being used as a Trojan Horse by which a GM staple crop can be pushed into the global food supply chain without any regulatory control.
As far as I know, the GM rice has never undergone any toxicology testing on either animals or human beings. (If such tests have been done, we do not know about them, and neither do the food regulators.) In other words, the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board is seeking to bypass established procedure with regard to GM crops for tactical and commercial reasons. That might not scare Robin McKie, but it sure as hell scares me -- since I am quite convinced from a growing peer-reviewed literature that some -- and maybe all -- GM crops induce chronic toxic effects in mammals when they are consumed.
McKie seems to share the synthetic outrage of Dubock and others about the PR disaster associated with the testing of Golden Rice on Chinese children. It was a fiasco entirely of their own making, linked to the ongoing lie that Golden Rice is just an "ordinary" rice with enhanced beta-carotene in it. Would McKie like to have had his own children involved in a highly secretive feeding experiment if they and he had been kept in the dark about how the plant had been bred, and about the fact that it had never undergone any prior toxicology testing? Some years ago I was one of 32 scientists who took the Golden Rice Project and Tufts University to task for an earlier round of feeding trials which were equally secretive and equally dishonest.
For our pains, Dubock referred to us as "degenerately immoral" and as "a failed bunch of cranks." That was very entertaining, but McKie has been around for quite long enough to know that those who promote Golden Rice are campaigning zealots who appear to have very little interest in sharing their science -- such as it is -- with the rest of the scientific community.