By Vidya Venkat – The Hindu, 9 July


Photo: V. Raju


A letter to Greenpeace endorsed by over 100 Nobel Laureates has yet again ignited a debate on whether genetically modified crops are safe or not.

Last week, over a hundred Nobel laureates shot off a letter to NGO Greenpeace calling its campaign against genetically modified (GM) crops “misleading” and “unscientific.” The letter has re-ignited the debate over how safe it is to consume GM food.

What does the letter say?

Addressing Greenpeace, the United Nations, and governments across the world, the letter points to how global production of food will have to double by 2050 to meet the demands of a growing global population. “Organisations opposed to modern plant breeding, with Greenpeace at their lead, have repeatedly denied these facts and opposed biotechnological innovations in agriculture. They have misrepresented their risks, benefits, and impacts, and supported the criminal destruction of approved field trials and research projects,” the letter says. It also urges Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the issue in the light of experiences of farmers and consumers worldwide as also new scientific findings. The letter wants Greenpeace to abandon its campaign against GM crop in general and Golden Rice in particular. It says Golden Rice, a genetically modified variety of rice infused with Vitamin A, is a must for curing Vitamin A deficiency in children in Africa who are affected by partial blindness because of the deficiency.

How have opponents of GM crops responded?

Environmentalist Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya, an organisation promoting organic farming, is clear that GM crops contaminate the environment and the letter by the Nobel winners is merely an opinion, and not an authoritative study to go by. In a written response to The Hindu, Ms. Shiva referred to the backlash the letter had received from several agriculture researchers and experts internationally. She cited Devon G. Peña, an anthropologist at the University of Washington, Seattle, and an expert in indigenous agriculture, who noted how the signatories were “mostly white men of privilege with little background in risk science, few with a background in toxicology studies, and certainly none with knowledge of the indigenous agro-ecological alternatives.” Ms. Shiva further said that the laureates’ letter relied for its impact entirely on the supposed authority of the signatories. Referring to a tweet from Philip Stark, Professor of Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, she said the signatories comprised: “One peace prize, 8 economists, 24 physicists, 33 chemists, 41 doctors”. She also shared details as to how Greenpeace activists were stalled from attending the Washington press conference where the letter in question was released, as one of the security managers for the event John Bryne was a former head of corporate communications for Monsanto, the GM seeds giant. Thus tracing the entire episode to a GM lobby-driven public relations exercise, Ms. Shiva said the letter should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Further Greenpeace has denied accusations that it is blocking genetically engineered ‘Golden’ rice. Its spokesperson from South East Asia, Wilhelmina Pelegrina, told The Hindu that golden rice has failed as a solution and isn’t currently available for sale, even after more than 20 years of research. “As admitted by the International Rice Research Institute, it has not been proven to actually address Vitamin A Deficiency,” she said, further adding: “Corporations are overhyping ‘golden’ rice to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops. Rather than invest in this overpriced public relations exercise, we need to address malnutrition through a more diverse diet, equitable access to food and eco-agriculture.”


Also Read:

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Biodiversity Or Gmos: Will the Future of Nutrition be in Women’s Hands or Under Corporate Control?

Women and Biodiversity Feed the World, Not Corporations and GMOs

By Dr Vandana Shiva – Common Dreams, 20 May 2015


The Golden Rice Hoax

Golden Rice – Myth not Miracle

by Dr Vandana Shiva

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