A Vancouver-based eco-crusader is raising the heckles of farmers across Asia as he mounts a campaign to promote a genetically modified variety of rice in the Philippines and India.
The so-called 'Golden' rice is a genetically engineered (GE) rice variety that has been developed by industry to produce pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene). Its proponents have hyped GE 'Golden' rice as a high-tech, quick-fix solution to vitamin A deficiency , which is prevalent in developing countries and can lead to blindness.
But Greenpeace says that is all hype and that the rice is environmentally irresponsible, poses risks to human health, and could compromise food, nutrition and financial security.
Ironically the person behind the Allow Golden Rice Campaign is Dr Patrick Moore, who co-founded Greenpeace and the quit the organization in 1986 saying the eco-group no longer cares about people and that it had become more interested in politics than science.
Greenpeace says Dr Moore is a “paid spokesman for the nuclear industry, the logging industry, and genetic engineering industry” and that he “exploits long gone ties with Greenpeace to sell himself as a speaker and pro-corporate spokesperson, usually taking positions that Greenpeace opposes.”
One of the issues that Greenpeace opposes vehemently is Moore’s current Allow Golden Rice Campaign which tours Philippines, Bangladesh, and India where vitamin A deficiency is a major cause of child mortality.
The Allow Golden Rice Society is actively campaigning for the approval of Golden Rice so it can be delivered to the 200 million children who are deficient in vitamin A.
“Two million children and many mothers die each year from a lack of this essential vitamin. It is the greatest cause of child death today. Golden Rice is the obvious cure, but because it was created with genetic science Greenpeace and the anti-GMO movement fervently oppose it,” states Moore.
Moore said that on August 8, 2013, Greenpeace instigated the destruction of Golden Rice scientific field trials at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.
“If Golden Rice were a cure for cancer, malaria, or Ebola, it would have been approved 10 years ago. In that time 20 million people, mostly children, have died.
This is a crime against humanity,” stated Dr. Patrick Moore, leader of the campaign. “All we ask is that Greenpeace and their allies make an exception for Golden Rice to their opposition to GM crops”, continued Dr. Moore. “Millions of lives are at stake.”
Moore who just concluded his visit to the Philippines, moves on to Dhaka, Bangladesh and Mumbai and New Delhi in India.
Anti-GM crop activist Benedicto Sánchez wrote that in the Philippines, Moore will find Negros Occidental inhospitable for his dubious gospel of “development.”
The province’s Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. targetting Moore’s tour said: “We have an ordinance, they cannot come in. In Negros we are GMO-free, we are an organic island,” while emphasizing the need for vigilance against such products.
For its part, the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Negros Occidental said: “We believe that there is still no adequate proof that GMO, such as ‘golden’ rice are safe for the environment or human health, and, as our commitment to our customers, we refuse to serve genetically modified rice in our establishments.”
No, Mr. Patrick Moore. You are persona non grata with the Negrenses wrote in the local paper.
MASIPAG, a Filipino farmer-led network of people’s organizations, NGOs and scientists has launched a Facebook campaign to stop Moore’s advicacy for Golden Rice.
“We reiterate the opposition of Filipino farmers to genetically modified (GM) crops and we will register our resistance against Golden Rice and other GM crops,” it states.
“Our opposition to Golden Rice and other GM crops are founded on solid arguments and actual experiences of Filipino farmers on GM crops. Filipino farmers who have been planting GM crops suffered negative income, health problems and poisoned environment.”
In India, The pro-technology Modi government is desperate to introduce genetically modified (GM) crops. It is now holding closed-door meetings with the right wing-affiliated groups – the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) – to end their opposition to the crops.
"The aim is to dispel fears about GM crops, so that the country can join the US, China and Canada. GM crops are very important for India's agriculture growth," says a senior agriculture ministry official.
Greenpeace India is already mobilizing its troops to debunk Dr Moore’s assertions.
“GE 'Golden' rice does not address the underlying causes of Vitamin A Deficiency, which are mainly poverty and lack of access to a healthy and varied diet. This GE rice is a technological fix that may generate new problems. For example, the single-crop approach of GE 'Golden' rice could make malnutrition worse because it encourages a diet based solely on rice, rather than increasing access to a diverse diet of fruits and vegetables, considered crucial to combatting VAD and other nutrient deficiencies.”