The Corner

Science & Tech

Opposing ‘Golden Rice’ Is Anti-Human

A scientist shows “Golden Rice” (R) and ordinary rice at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, Laguna. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if half a million destitute children could be saved each year from blindness and/or death from Vitamin A deficiency? Well, they can be by adding a simple GMO food to their diets known as “golden rice.”

Golden rice is not toxic. It does not genetically engineer, say, pesticide into the plant’s genes. It simply modifies rice to contain beta-carotene, a necessary nutrient often missing from the diets of the destitute in countries such as Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

Not only that, but no Monsanto. The food is being developed by the non-profit International Rice Research Institute, so that international corporations don’t make big bucks off the empty stomachs of the poor. From the Alliance for Science story:

Many of the Golden Rice opponents subscribe to a conspiracy theory that it is part of a plot by corporations and banks to seize control of a nation’s seeds and farming.

In reality, although Syngenta was an early research partner in the mid-2000s, Golden Rice currently is being developed in the public sector by the International Rice Research Institute and a network of partner government and academic institutions. It will be provided patent- and royalty-free to poorer farmers on a non-profit basis. Funding is provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other international and philanthropic donors.

Solidarity!

Golden rice has now been found by several governments to be safe for human consumption:

Golden Rice is now on the brink of deployment in Bangladesh, and was recently approved for consumption by Food Standards Australia New Zealand. The Canadian government also last month that ruled the rice is safe for human consumption. Although it is not intended for consumers in developed countries, approval was sought to prevent trade disruption should Golden Rice be inadvertently present in internationally traded milled rice.

It should be noted that the New Zealand approval states that there is “no risk to public health and safety” from golden rice

And yet, anti-GMO activists, calling rice a “political crop,” continue their efforts to stifle the development and distribution of this life-saving invention, citing dubious safety concerns and worries that indigenous farmers will somehow lose their livings.  Here’s how the “Stop Golden Rice Network” describes its mission:

Stop Golden Rice! Network (SGRN) is a regional campaign collaboration of more than 30 organizations in South Asia and South East Asia. It works against the commercialization of Golden Rice and other forms of genetically modified crops, towards a society with equity, food sovereignty, sustainable and ecology-based agriculture.

To put it more honestly, it works toward ensuring that affected societies continue to be mired in poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.

Golden rice has been many years in development and testing. Every reasonable objection has been investigated and safety concerns studied. The objections that remain will never be assuaged because they are entirely ideological.

It’s time to ignore the food Luddites and help millions of malnourished children thrive. To do otherwise, would be anti-human.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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