Bjørn Lomborg: Why Genetically Modified Rice is Necessary

Lomborg writes in the National Post:

Trashing Rice, Killing Children

Earlier this month, 400 protestors destroyed a field trial of genetically modified Golden Rice in the Philippines. Aided by well-meaning but misguided organizations such as Greenpeace, such mobs are potentially destroying the opportunity to avoid 680,000 deaths each year. That is morally indefensible.

Golden rice is genetically modified (GM) to have vitamin A. This is important because 3-billion people depend on rice as their staple food, and about 10% are at risk for vitamin A deficiency. The World Health Organization estimates that lack of vitamin A makes 250,000-500,000 kids go blind annually. And studies published in The Lancet estimate that each year, 668,000 children under 5 die from vitamin A deficiency.

Yet, campaigners from Greenpeace to Naomi Klein have derided the attempt to use Golden Rice to avoid such deficiency.

A favorite claim has been that you need to eat 7 kg (15 pounds) of rice per day to get sufficient vitamin A from Golden Rice. This is simply wrong. Two recent studies show that just 50g (2oz) golden rice can provide 60% of daily vitamin A – even better than spinach.

Greenpeace suggests that poor farmers should instead buy more “vitamin-rich vegetables.” This, of course, is an easy suggestion to make for rich Westerners. It sounds awfully close to saying “let them eat vitamin-enriched cake.”

In general, the activists profess to be worried about health and environment. Yet, they have trashed the test sites that are established to study the very safety that GM opponents claim to be concerned about.

Common claims about supposedly dangerous “frankenfoods” are simply not supported by science. According to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences: “To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”

The rest here.

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