Among the worst excesses of environmentalist enthusiasts is the campaign against ‘golden rice.’ It is not just a campaign of black and misleading propaganda, though it is that, too. It is also a campaign of property destruction and vandalism. Greenpeace are among the most thuggish of offenders, claiming the right to override what elected governments have sanctioned, and using violence to secure their way.
Golden Rice has been genetically engineered to produce vitamin A. It incorporates two genes, one bacterial and one from maize, that together produce beta carotene and then vitamin A. This gives the rice its characteristic golden colour. The point is that much of the world depends on rice for food, given that it provides 20% of the world’s calories, and rice is deficient in vitamin A. It is estimated that 670,000 children die each year worldwide because of vitamin A deficiency, while hundreds of thousands more are left blind, and many more suffer other illnesses as a result.
Golden Rice is not about profit. It has been developed free and open source. Monsanto does not own it, and does not take royalties on any of its techniques used in its development. The intellectual property is provided free. The initial crop provided relatively low levels of vitamin A, but Golden Rice 2, the newer version, provides much more. Indeed, a cup a day could provide half the recommended dietary intake of vitamin A.
The most recent vandalism has been the destruction of experimental fields in the Philippines, setting research back many weeks. Locals were incited by environmental activist organizations from rich Western countries, who routinely try to spread fear about the new crop in order to prevent its acceptance and use. Greenpeace opposes the release of Golden Rice in order to maintain its stance against all genetically modified organisms. Their alternative remedies to vitamin A deficiency include a belief that by “home gardens, sustainable systems are created that provide food security and diversity in a way that is empowering women and protects agro-diversity.” While it might be nice if subsistence farmers grew courgettes, carrots and cucumbers, the reality is that rice is cheap, easily grown, and provides enough calories to survive on.
Golden Rice has shown neither health nor environmental problems in its years of being grown and developed. On the contrary, it represents science at its best, applying ingenuity and compassion to the solution of human problems. One wonders how many children’s coffins will have to be dumped on the environmentalists’ lawns before they abandon their ideological and fanatical opposition to a life-saving technology.
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