Peter Singer

An advocate of infanticide for disabled babies is the latest addition to those claiming the moral high ground over golden rice.

Peter Singer, the Princeton University Professor who wrote Animal Liberation - the book said to have inspired the modern animal rights movement, has just written an article promoting golden rice and GMOs. The article also gives a hat tip to Patrick Moore's golden rice campaign that seeks to blame "Greenpeace and its allies" for the deaths of Vitamin A deficient children.
In his article Singer presents himself as Mr Reasonable, as well as having historically been very cautious about GM: "In the 1990's, as a Senate candidate for the Australian Greens, I was among those who argued for strong regulations to prevent biotech companies putting our health, or that of the environment, at risk in order to increase their profits."
But what Singer doesn't tell his readers is that he has long thrown caution to the wind when it comes to the uses of biotechnology. Thus, in his 2002 overview of The Politics of Transhumanism, James Hughes notes not only that Singer's "writings on the permissibility of euthanizing certain disabled newborns (Kuhse and Singer, 1985)... inspired howls of outrage, and accusations of fascism" but that Singer also "argues, we must employ the new genetic and neurological sciences to identify and modify the aspects of human nature that cause conflict and competition."

Singer is not alone in encouraging a Transhumanist future in which genetics are used to modify human beings. Julian Savulescu, the controversial bioethicist and neo-eugenicist, who has been described as "one of Singer's most distinguished disciples", says we have a moral duty to genetically modify our children. Indeed, Savulescu claims we will simply have to "genetically enhance" humanity or face extinction. He promotes a eugenical programme involving the selection or genetic modification of embryos plus the use of drugs to better fit us to the modern technological world.

This is the context of Singer's relaxed views on GM! About golden rice, Singer writes that it "has not been shown to pose any risk at all to human health or the environment" and yet it "still cannot be released."

But the IRRI - the institute overseeing the golden rice trials – has made clear that not only is golden rice not ready to be released but that it is still not a proven means of reducing vitamin A deficiency. To quote the IRRI: "it has not yet been determined whether daily consumption of Golden Rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient and could therefore reduce related conditions such as night blindness."

And, of course, the reason that golden rice has not, in Singer's words, "been shown to pose any risk at all to human health or the environment," is that there has been no research into either of those possibilities - just endless posturing and hype!

Peter Singer joins an ever more bizarre menagerie of morally dubious golden rice promoters that includes:

Patrick Moore, who claims to be standing up for "science" but also promotes climate change scepticism, and even claims global warming may be a good thing! Moore has made his living as an apologist for some of the most environmentally damaging industries in the world.

Owen Paterson, another "science" supporting climate change denier, and widely regarded as Britain's worst ever environment minister.

Matt Ridley, the rightwing free marketeer and arch climate-sceptic who presided over the collapse of Northern Rock, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the bill for the massive bail out. Ridley is not only Owen Paterson's brother-in-law but is said to be his personal think tank!

Mark Lynas who has modeled himself on Patrick Moore and has a serial problem with telling the truth.

And, of course, the biotech corporations themselves - companies that have been involved in the production of some of the most toxic and environmentally damaging products known to man, and which have a long and terrible history of corporate crimes.

An advocate of infanticide for disabled babies seems an appropriate addition to the list of those claiming the moral high ground over golden rice.

More on Patrick Moore's campaign

More on golden rice