GM rice doesn’t address poverty, lack of biodiversity – Organic Matters Column

CORRECTION: An earlier online version of this column erroneously stated Golden Rice is offered as a solution to vitamin D deficiency.

Golden rice is a product of genetically modified technology that is offered as a solution to vitamin A deficiency for poor people in Africa and South Asia.

On first glance it is a public relations dream for the GMO community, but I think there are far more benefits in an organic, ecosystem approach.

Before golden rice, the benefits of GM crops were targeted toward farmers: herbicide resistance or inclusion of systemic pesticides. However, golden rice is targeted at the public and food aid community.

Vitamin A deficiency is devastating among people who depend on rice as their only major food source. The deficiency leads to night blindness, delayed development, total blindness and eventually death. It is a widespread failure of the food system for the poor.

True, making rice more nutritious might prevent specific deficiencies, but how much more appropriate would it be to reduce these people’s dependence on rice as their only food.

The core issue here is not that rice is insufficiently nutritious. The real problem is that rice is the sole food source for vulnerable people.

“For vulnerable rural families, for instance in Africa and Southeast Asia, growing fruits and vegetables in home gardens complements dietary diversification and fortification and contributes to better lifelong health,” says the World Health Organization

ADVERTISMENT

Many vegetables and fruits provide vitamin A or its precursors. They also offer many additional nutritional benefits.

Organic methods of growing food are widely recognized as offering the best potential to increase yields on small holdings without poisoning the food and the environment and relying on expensive first world inputs.

Organic farming also offers a supplementary approach for larger holdings. Eliminating herbicides and pesticides in rice paddies may reduce rice yields but would allow farmers to harvest a more diverse range of products.

Diversity has a number of benefits.

A diverse diet is considered ideal for maintaining optimal health. This is true for people, and it is true in ecosystems.

A range of harvestable “weeds” would be one benefit. Leafy greens are particularly nutritious additions to a carbohydrate-based diet. Many weeds are especially rich in nutrients, such as beta-carotene, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Some of the plants we consider weeds have a long cultural history of use as food plants.

Another benefit from replacing herbicides and pesticides with organic methods is that paddies might provide aquatic habitat, allowing the harvesting of fish and other proteins. They may attract other animals as well, with further harvesting options.

ADVERTISMENT

Moving from high-input monoculture rice to organic, diverse holdings could better address the “rice issue,” and do it more healthfully than tinkering with rice itself.

Of course, poverty is the underlying cause of vitamin A deficiency. It reduces farmers’ ability to negotiate a reasonable position in the agricultural system, which would provide the means for a healthful diet.

It is hard to see how entering into a patent protected process with powerful first world companies will increase African or Asian farmers’ ability to secure viable options.

The more relevant cause of malnutrition is the loss of agricultural and ecosystem biodiversity. This results from the increasing dominance of large-scale monoculture agriculture and from the widespread use of herbicides, which kill everything else, including nutritious weeds.

Increasing the vitamin A potential of rice is not going to solve these problems. Malnutrition needs to be addressed as an ecosystem process, which considers our first world influence and its intended and unintended consequences.

Golden rice seems an attempt to solve a problem of poverty and agricultural failure, but it does not address the root causes of either of these problems.

Eliminating herbicides, eating weeds and diversifying the agro-ecosystem seems to be a more effective option than more dependence on First World technology.

ADVERTISMENT

Who would truly benefit from golden rice? Perhaps its patent holders, but I doubt that this is the best way to bring benefits to those who suffer the most from a skewed agricultural system.

Brenda Frick, Ph.D., P.Ag. is an extension agrologist and researcher in organic agriculture. She welcomes your comments at 306-260-0663 or email organic@usask.ca.

  • Kevin Folta

    That’s nice Brenda, but I think you miss a couple of key points. I’m really glad to see extension folks discussing this topic. The problem organic ag suffers from is that it is considered kind of fringe and kooky, built on soft science. I’m afraid your thoughts here only build that perception.

    First, if organic cultivation of diverse crops is a solution, you can do that today. It could have been done for 50 years, 100 years. What is stopping them? What is stopping you? If it is a solution, and viable, it would have been done.

    Second, where will they get organic pesticides from? Organic cultivation frequently requires a slate of pesticides that have to be used oftentimes at kg/acre. Where do they get them?

    There are no “patent holders” on golden rice. This is a solution that could help people that know how to cultivate rice, and eat rice as part of their culture. It is kind of you to swoop in and install your Western diet and customs on them.

    So give it a try. Let’s see the organic organizations stop vilifying biotech and start doing something for the people they are killing every single day with their resistance. Beta-carotene-enriched rice may not be a panacea. However, if my child was losing her sight because of a lack of vitamin A, and I’m a rice farmer, I would be grateful for such technology.

    I’m glad to discuss Golden Rice with you anytime. Your role in extension is extremely important, and your credibility among stakeholders is key to your ideas being adopted. I’m happy to help you deal with this topic from an informed perspective.

    • One of my biggest wishes for the future of agriculture and biotechnology is that, as you say, “organic organizations to stop vilifying biotech and start doing something for the people they are killing every single day with their resistance.”

      • hyperzombie

        organic organizations to stop vilifying biotech

        I really don’t get it, Organic should be the number one promoter of Bt crops, I am guessing that they think no one would pay 2x more for the same food if a crap load of fear is not thrown in.

        PS I love your harvest video, it rocks…

      • Brandie Nadiger-Harrop

        Sarah who exactly are they killing?

        • Eric Bjerregaard

          The folks with deficiencies.

          • richard

            Yeah its all organic farmers fault…..we should line them all up! Do you people realize how much you resemble a cult?

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Not organic farmers fault. The ones over there are probably doing the best they know how. That is ho they survive.. Those who obstruct progress are at fault.

          • Brandie Nadiger-Harrop

            Considering the GM rice isn’t even ready for market yet that is a complete impossibility

      • RuralFarmer

        Sarah, the only folks killing anyone through agriculture are the biotech guys. Not a single commercially available crop has shown an increase in yield, long term benefit to the environment or nutrition to date. Yield increases are achieved through conventional breeding methods (they are cheeper and more accurate). All GMO is about is the ability to patent seed and to control the food supply. Hardly a scheme to help the port and hungry.

        • Sara

          That’s just not true. Metastudies* consistently find significant increases in yields, decreases in pesticide use, and increases in profits for farmers due to the use of GE crops. Particularly so in developing countries.

          Plant patents have existed in the US since 1930. Hybrid crops used for organic and conventional farming are patented just the same way as GE crops are, and for the same purpose: to protect investment in new technologies and products. The patents always expire in 20 years.

          *Such as this recent one: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0111629

    • richard

      Yes Brenda, as a scientist you really should stick to “hard science”. After all it has delivered us such wonders as BSE, BST, CJD, CWD… herbicide, pesticide and antibiotic resistance…..watersheds contaminated with nitrates, phosphates, agrotoxins and pharma…..and a food system predicated on anti nutrition. Now that you have the “informed perspective” you surely must understand how important your role is in speaking the “truth” to those “fringe and kooky people” ???

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        Yeah right Richard, We learn a lot at our local anti-nutrition meetings.

        • richard

          Apparently not as most of you have become mesmerized by industrial food….saturated and trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, salt and uber refined carb diets….leading to what? Industrial disease sponsored by industrial agricuture. Type two diabetes, a myriad of inflammatory disease, cancers, heart disease and a health care (disease mitigation) system spinning out of control…

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            I have not advocated anything that you mention. Neither has anyone else here. Bad food choices are not related to G.R. safety. Neither are any of your contentions. In fact G.R. may well be grown in mostly non-industrial situatio9ns by small farmers. Some of whom may use organic. I will buy it if it ever comes on the U.S. market. In doing so, I will be confident that my diet will improve and that I will be supporting the folks who developed it.

          • richard

            Evidently you missed the fact that my original comment was directed at Kevin not you Eric……your defense of yourself is irrelevant. Whats interesting is the intellectual arrogance of throwing the author under the bus…..just for expressing her opinion. And she’s a professional associate of all yours…..How weak is that?

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            No, I knew you addressed Kevin. Answered as he often does not. I am not defending myself. I have not done anything wrong. I am defending innovation. This author is no colleague of mine. In fact I wonder if she should even hold her position.

          • richard

            Funny, I have exactly the same thoughts about narrow minded scientists and their inability to address the big picture that surrounds their narrow interests.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Those scientist have come up with vaccines, computers, air conditioning. planes, many medicines , and on and on. This type of development requires specialization. Hence sometimes the misleading appearance of narrow interests. These innovations have contributed to the improvement of the big picture.

          • richard

            Finally something cogent and untainted by agribiz doctrine……Absolutely agree with you……NOW, what don’t you simply own up to the fact that the self same reductionist keyhole in the door worldview has created such hubris as massive antibiotic resistance, massive weed, pest and disease resistance……and significantly contaminated watersheds all over the planet……Its ok to testify. You will be liberated by the truth.

    • Tom O’Hern

      Kevin, if you were a rice farmer, and some one told you that you could save your child by feeding them a salad made from weeds that are growing around your house, would you do that? Because I bet there are dandelions growing there now and they have all the Vitamin A those kids need. Or would you wait a decade or two for some government/corporate entity to spend billions of dollars on a solution that they say that they will promise to give you for free. The solution is not only Golden rice or dead kids. Lets educate those farmers on how they can diversify their diet and we can start saving those kids today, not tomorrow.

      • Bill Crabtree

        Great idea Tom, book your ticket to Asia now and spread your knowledge. But don’t stand in the way of others doing their bit. To stop Golden Rice really amounts to a “crime against humanity”

        • Eric Nicolas Schneider

          No, the solutions networks exist and are well present over there. You just dont hear of them. Organic is big in Germany, but the markets are being heavily torpedoed by the industry, for example: organic farmers have to PAY for the tests, whereas toxic farmers dont have to – this is part of why organic is more expensive – this is a government unfair regulation built by the toxic lobbies. Further, if toxic ag had to PAY for cleanign up the contaminated soils, rivers etc the toxic food would be MORE EXPENSIVE, but those billions are paid by your state’s tax money. Organic causes NO side effects.

          YOU are relying on provincial north american information influenced by industry. Others dont, they see the facts, thats why they do this:

          Some states of India are switching to 100% organic now. and in the Phillipines for example they are preparing 100% switch to organic rice via the ministry.

          Small farmers still feed 70% of the world pop, and their output per hectare is 3 to 50 times higher than big ag monoculture.

          United Nations reports involving millions of people show the same with numbers from the past 40 years. If GMo could feed people, then ask why 20% of american go hungry every day? And why you ahve epidemic childhood allergies kids dying from peanuts today in the USA, childhood cancer crauzy on the rise. Do you think this comes from organic or watching trhe simpsons?

          THATS WHY THE UNITED NATIONS sum it up in their UNCTAD report: industrial ag has failed for 50 years ot create food security, in fact they make it worse through soaring manipulated prices fuel vs food, and destroying soils + ecosystems + regional markets.

          Thats why the UN had the year of FAMILY FARMING this year – did you know that? or are you limited to your provincial view?

          Lots happening there. In the 80’s, regional inof’d citizens would have said “i dont know”, today everybody entitles themselves to a malinformed OPINION.

          • richard

            Well put Eric….If you follow this thread you will see I have been challenging the “ossified elite” on the exact same issues.

          • Bill Crabtree

            hi Eric, have you ever seen an organic wheat field in Australia? They yield nothing and the world will starve if we go down this path – i know a little about agriculture, i farm 7,000 acres in the one of the hottest and driest regions in the world. If we started farming in an organic fashion then we would deplete soil nutrients and lose the skin off the earth. Do you farm? The EU is a disgrace for agriculture, their corn yields have dropped 10% over the ten years while the US has increased to 174 b/ac average – huge increases due to better weed and insect control and better timing, hybrids, less tillage and more – mostly aided by smart and safe gene technology. EU farmers get paid extra Euros for an extra two cultivations required in the organic system and they are losing about 1 cm per year from doing so. They only have 100 years of soil left in many places – this is unsustainable. Most herbicides are more benign than coffee, fly spray, shampoo, soap etc – google LD50s and try and get these things in perspective with reality. How about you come to some agricutlrual conferences and learn with those trying to fix problems rather than fearmongering about imaginary ones. And yes, you are “entitle…..to a malinformed OPINION.” it is your right!

          • madcapfeline

            No side effects, eh? So all those people who got sick from eating listeria contaminated ORGANIC produce earlier this year, were what, making it up for the attention? Not to mention the side effect of an empty wallet. If you want to spend three times as much for a weeks worth of groceries that offers no discernible benefit, by all means, go ahead. But don’t try to convince me that everyone has the means to do so.

      • Eric Nicolas Schneider

        right on, agroforestry and agroecology are doing that. further, SRI tech etc by small afrmers have led to 5 to 10-fold yields, all easy and organic.

      • mem_somerville

        Um, yeah, and don’t let the conditions of the most dense slums in Manila deter you. I’m sure you’ll find a dandelion somewhere here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/06/world_manila_slum_life/html/2.stm

        Glad you sorted that out.

    • Debbie Owen

      Golden rice is just a very expensive failed experiment, it would be so much cheaper and more effective just to provide supplements. Besides, you know the problems with Golden Rice isn’t due to resistance, even the IRRI says the crops aren’t ready yet, that’s because they don’t work.

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        How would a never ending supplemental program be cheaper? How has G.R. failed?

        • richard

          A billion dollar waste of scarce resources trying to salvage a scintilla of success out of fifty years “green revolution” platitudes from the ivory temple.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            “scintilla?” The lives of my family, friends, and folks I have never met are worth much more than a scintilla. “scarce resources” You have no claim to other peoples resources. They may use them as they see fit. Also one of the other, more reliable posters put the figure at 30 million. My veggie pizza is that the other guy’s figure is closer. And . from the Merriam Webster dictionary.

            Full Definition of PLATITUDE

            1

            : the quality or state of being dull or insipid

            2

            : a banal, trite, or stale remark

            Examples of PLATITUDE

            His speech was filled with familiar platitudes about the value of hard work and dedication.

            So, as you can see your use of ivory temple has become a platitude.

          • richard

            Sorry pal the green revolution failed and will continue to fail because in incorrectly applies paternalistic, western technological values to cultures that have no interest in those values and the academic arrogance that created them.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            No, The green revolution has contributed to the feeding of millions. Hence success. Is improvement needed? Yes and folks such as Kevin will contribute. Also cultures do not have interest. But the farmers do and will buy the products.

          • richard

            Perhaps you should talk to Jeffrey Sachs ……He applied your outdated worldview to the “green revolution” thirty years ago with a Harvard education and millions of dollars…..and failed…….Why? Because culture does have interest and paternalistic western dogma just doesnt fly….sorry pal, shooting from the lip is not working here.

  • mem_somerville

    Ah, yes, the “let them eat kale” position. You know, nobody is opposed to kale. And nobody is preventing kale distribution.

    • hyperzombie

      I wouldn’t care if they banned GR, if they could come up with another crop high in Vit A that stores well in the tropics. I am guessing, but loading up the kids in a SUV and going to the local market is not an option for these folks.

      • mem_somerville

        Right, because poor families in the slums of Manila have those sweet sub-zero stainless steel fridges with crisper drawers all over their shanties.

        • First Officer

          I knew they were holding out on us !

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            and complimenting the use of sarcasm here needed to be deleted? Why ? They are very good at it. Methinks you are a bit touchy and defensive. Just how does the sarcasm contribute if the compliment does not?

        • hyperzombie

          Of course they have stainless fridges, you cant have granite counter tops with out them. It is a Home decor faux pas.

  • First Officer

    So Golden Rice will alleviate a devastating nutrient deficiency, but no more. In effect, like a vaccine preventing only smallpox or polio, prevent millions from suffering VAD but change nothing else directly.

    So why not get Golden Rice out there and continue to work on the other problems? Is it so terrible to save those whom you now have the means to save?

    • Kangaface

      Ask the IRRI, who recently reported that Golden Rice failed its field trials. http://irri.org/golden-rice/faqs/what-is-the-status-of-the-golden-rice-project-coordinated-by-irri
      What a pity that your experimental GMO ‘saviour’ won’t be able to ‘save’ anyone until quite some time has passed and a huge amount more $$$ have been spent that could have been better used on proven effective methods of combating vitamin A deficiency, such as have been used in the Philippines.

      • Jason

        Failure?? One variety didn’t yield as well as some of the preferred varieties currently being used. So what? That’s breeding. The technology itself has proven out. Now all that needs to be done is for breeders to breed this tech back into varieties that yield higher. That’s the easy part.

  • ScottMyers20
  • Will D.

    The first “fact” of the article is wrong. It’s vitamin A not D. I don’t think I can trust an article that gets the most important fact completely wrong. And, there are no patents on golden rice, it has been donated as regular seed. So another false fact. I expect better from the print voice of Canadian agriculture

  • Paul Anderson

    As I understand it, Golden Rice is being released without patents. So that portion of the article is a very weak strawman. Golden Rice can be utilized in any existing public or private breeding program without concern for royalties. There will be no benefit to patent holders.

  • RobertWager

    Seriously? Why do poor people grow rice and not diverse crops? Wow. How can you not know they grow rice because it is the only crop in their part of the world that will ensure they don’t starve to death from lack of calories in the vast majority of cases.

    if Vit A difficiency disease (VAD) was just a matter of growing diverse crops and that the people who suffer from VAD then why on earth have they not adopted diverse cropping agriculture. Are they dumb or do they know more about the reality of their food situation then you do?

    “Organic methods of growing food are widely recognized as offering the best potential to increase yields”

    According to who? Please cite the source of this statement. Decades of research show organic food has on average 30% yield drag in the developed world and ~43% yield drag in the developing world when compared to conventional agriculture. ( Nature 2012 article)

    “Increasing the vitamin A potential of rice is not going to solve these problems. ”

    Why on earth would elliminating VAD have to solve poverty (the root cause of the poor). Truly amazing that you think eliminating VAD in close to BILLION people is not something we should do because all of the ills of the poor won’t be solved at the same time.

    Every single patent has been waived in GRII for subsistence farmers who make less than $10,000 per year. This is the vast majority of the poor in the world who suffer from VAD.

    This article shows very shallow investigation of GRII technology and a complete lack of understanding of the realities in many parts of the developing world.

    • Denise Trafford

      Pardon me for my skepticism, but can you show me some examples of when the biotech industry ever did anything out of goodness of their hearts?
      It appears on the surface to be a generous offer to waive the GRII patent fees for subsistant farmers earning less than $10,000 a year. However…..?
      In controlled experiments, how long was this golden rice tested for? Overdosing on vitamin A has dire consequences. How did the industries'”scientists” determine what is a safe amount of vitamin A in the seeds? Can people consume golden rice over long periods of time (especially if that is their only main or only staple) without overdosing on it?
      Can you allay my fears that these poor people are not just being using as human guinea pigs in a long term study?
      According to the Mayo Cliniic SOME of the side effects from overdosing on vitamin A are:
      – bleeding in the liver
      – blurry vision
      – bone pain
      – changes in immune funstion
      – chronic inflammation of the liver
      – cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
      – decreased thyroid function
      – depression
      – diarrhea
      – fluid around the heart
      – increase risk of HIV transmission( through breast feeding)
      – mouth ulcers
      – muscle pain
      – respiratory infection
      – stomach and intestinal adverse effects
      Vitamin A toxicity can occur with high amounts taken short term or long term.
      I agree with Brenda, crop diversity is the better solution. Safer and cheaper in the long run.

      • Well, check out GAVI – this has got to be a pretty good example of biotech doing good, purely for goodness’ sake, no?

        http://wapo.st/1xtO3p3

        Here’s a link to GAVI itself:

        http://www.gavi.org/

        It’s almost never as bad as it seems…

        Cheers,
        Paul – WP web ed

        • Denise

          I strained my eyes to see if any of the beneficent donors was a biotech or pharma giant, but naught’a one did I see. I saw governments and private donors on the list.

  • RobertWager

    Such a pity when facts are blocked (multiple comments now) but the organic rhetoric is published.

    • Robert,

      It’s Saturday night and I’m attending my volunteer firefighter Christmas dinner.

      Your comments are not being censored.

      Merry Christmas,
      Paul – WP web editor
      Volunteer Fire Fighter, Emergency Medical Responder

      • RobertWager

        Thank you Paul.
        I misinterpreted the transition from under moderator consideration to nothing posted as a rejection. My bad.

        • Eric Bjerregaard

          I think I spotted the reason, besides the delay. Paul’s moderator notification is essentially the same as many from sites such as natural news. Which in those cases means censored/blocked.

          • I’m instantaneously (as close as I can tell) notified any time a comment is posted.

            The “problem” is, I also have a life… 😉

            Cheers,
            Paul – WP web ed

      • hyperzombie

        Merry Christmas, to you as well. And keep up the good work, we need more people like you!

      • Kevin Folta

        I apologize too for jumping the gun. Bottom line, this article was really off base. When I posted my note and it said “Awaiting Moderation” I took a screenshot. Later when I looked it was completely gone. It looked like it was just trashed. Thanks for allowing some clarification on this issue. As a guy that loves what extension agents can do, it is sad to see something so uninformed.

      • First Officer

        Happy Holidays 2 you 2! Glad you’re no Vani Hari!

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        I made a few comments about an hour ago and all were deleted 10:33 P.M. eastern time is for this one. Why?

        • Eric,

          I’m just home from my son’s hockey game.

          No one is “deleting” your comments, though I did delete one that was pure snark and contributed nothing to this discussion.

          Cheers,
          Paul – WP web ed

  • Bill Crabtree

    Very disappointing article, come and see organic reality in Australia – it requires cultivation, it destroys soil in a dry & barren continent!

    • Denise

      We don’t live on a dry barren continent,here. Heritage and hybrid plants flourish when grown in healthy soil, with proper oversight,in North America’s agricultural areas.. What happened to good stewardship of the land?
      If Mother Nature decides to land you a blow no amount of pesticide application can save you.. We have agricultural land that is/was the envy of the world, but we have been quickly destroying its life-giving forces, during the last twenty years.
      I don’t think we can play this game much longer. Our environment is getting sicker everyday. Mother Nature is sending out warning signals (superweeds and adapting pests, dying bees, butterlies, and birds,water polluted with toxins) telling us to slow down and proceed with care. Will we? Or are we just like a bunch of lemmings going off the cliff?

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        Denise, Bill said Australia. If everything is so horrible here why is the fish safe to eat from lakes that folks said were not safe when I was a kid. Lakes such as Michigan;.

        • Denise

          Was I not clear when I said, “We do not live on a dry, barren continent,here.” in North America as compared to Australia? There is no comparison.The largest part of Australia is too arid for agriculture. They have a small temperate region for agriculture. The climate has extremes and climate change is making it worse. To grow any kind of crop( organic or ,what we now call, conventional) in Australia has become a major challenge for them.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Sorry I read your comment too quickly. Saw first that he was referring to Australia. Then you referred to N.Am. so quickly followed by my noticing the mother decides when there is no decision made. And pesticides to help farmers get through problems. That’s why we use them. Also I passed geography and am even aware that they have some areas that are very productive.

      • Bill Crabtree

        Hi Denise, you do have the dry Plains regionS, like in CO, KS, TX, OK, NE, SD, WS & I have been all over the US many times. You paint a very sad (& paranoid & likely uninformed) picture of agriculture. No-till agriculture with constant soil cover is the only way to stop soil disappearing globally. Organic farming requires tillage to control “organic superweeds”, show me a sustainable organic farmer in Australia who does not use tillage and which rapidly oxidises their OM and I will help promote it. Until then I suggest you back off on the fearmongering about smart science-based agricultural breeding & agronomy tools. Very sincerely.

        • richard

          More apocryphal rumours and agribiz dogma…..The only superweeds in the world sir, just like super disease and super insects are the result of you and your friends hurling more of the same agritoxins at the problem….and expecting a different result…..Mutation is the ecosystems defense to the vanity of ongoing human intervention…..When agriculture finally comes to terms with the fact that you can’t do an end run around the biological reality it will terminate its abuse of the biosphere. Its simply natural law…..and you can fight all you wish….but your just punching yourself in the head. Very sincerely.

          • Bill Crabtree

            There is nothing super about mutations, unless you believe in Ninja’s 🙂 Glyphosate resistant weeds occur without GMO’s and they usually have a fitness penalty (not very super, really). Its a bit like antibiotic resistance is a threat to humans. So what’s your plan with resistance? Give up and go back to having 1/3rd of the population dying from the plagues? You go first, yes? You are in an ideological/religious place and I believe that your views are dangerous and selfish – like Green Peace in Peru. You would rather millions of kids die than let them eat perfectly safe GMO Golden Rice?

          • richard

            So I’m dangerous and selfish and Denise is paranoid and uninformed…..and you all knowing and wise must surely understand that the proliferation of disease, pest and herbicide and antibiotic resistance is entirely a function of dangerous, selfish, paranoid and uninformed farmers trying to outrun natural law…. It aint gonna work pal and no amount of projecting your fear on anyone who disagrees with you is gonna change the fact that your perception is flawed…. It is absurd to talk about more of the same ag tech hubris when fifty percent of the food produced in the world is never eaten…..and two billion citizens feel entitled to gorge themselves into morbid obesity on cheap industrial proto food…. What we really need is genetically modified intelligence….implanted into a sad and desperate race……

  • Jason,

    Thanks very much for taking the time to write and share your thoughts.

    The column in question is simply the opinion of the author, nothing more nor less.

    You obviously disagree with the author and that’s fine.

    We believe that such disagreement fosters debate and that civil debate of these passionately-held beliefs is the best way to move forward.

    Cheers,
    Paul – WP web ed

    • jason

      I understand the common disclaimer, however any content published does reflect the publication publishing it. This is especially true online as articles tend to be viewed independently whereas the paper magazine might have a counterpoint on the next page. My primary point is in a world where tv doctors and celebrities seem to be trusted information sources as I producer I really on outlets such as WP to at very least truthfully inform those in the sector.

      • Hi Jason,

        I completely agree with everything you say.

        I began a discussion with other WP eds last night on how to address the points you make.

        One of the changes we’ve agreed to implement – and you can see it in the headline above – is that we NEED to clearly label our “opinion” pieces online as such.

        The “truth” you speak of is a little more tricky – truth to whom?

        One of the ways we try to find “truth” on any issue is by examining its many facets – and the publication of opinions such as those of Ms. Frick is one such example.

        Were mistakes made by the WP? Almost certainly yes. And we’ve already made changes to, hopefully, improve.

        My personal opinion is that making mistakes like this is the best way forward.

        Absolutely we try to report “truth,” but depending upon who you talk to there are many competing “truths” out there.

        Is it possible the debate this column has sparked, mistakes and all, is really a good thing?

        Cheers,
        Paul – WP web ed

        • Rick Aucoin

          Obviously the word “truth” is problematic.
          I’m sure what Jason meant was “facts”, not “truth”.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Rick, facts and truth are the same thing. WP is referring to the fact that some have fallen for the trap of relativism. Bottom line is that the truth and facts are the same for all of us. Many individuals perceive reality incorrectly. The reality is the same for all of us. Circumstances may change or vary. There are truths out there and there is also baloney that some will insist is truth. They will be incorrect. Just as a publisher is if they bow to the pressure of such opinions and give them a platform. This is known as false balance.

          • richard

            Perhaps you are referring to the baloney that industrial agriculture is sustainable and that we will somehow magically succeed at doing an end run around the biological realty and successfully feed 9B 2050. This is known as a false hood…….and precisely why truth and facts are not the same thing.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            “magically” not true. Hard work. Starting with educating folks who incorrectly believe that there is a difference between facts and truth.

          • richard

            Without the usual agribiz sophistry please explain to me how with every major ecosystem on the planet under duress, eight hundred undernourished citizens, and two billion gorged into obesity on industrial antinutrition…..that we are somehow going to successfully feed 9B 2050…..Remember this is your cult’s mantra. Give me the facts and the truth sir???

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            “agribiz sophistry?” Truth? “gorged into obesity? Not relevant to G.R. ” on anti nutrition” not relevant to G.R. besides that the anti-nutrition you speak of caused me to grow and develop well enough to play sports all my life. Also the vast majority of the folks I grew up with are alive and well. Explain that please. Again food choices is an individual issue not related to G.R. “cult” ??? “mantra” advocating for progress is not tantamount to joining a cult. More exaggerating and emotion. The fact is you have been misled. The truth is it is not my responsibility to explain or solve the world’s food distribution problems. I am simply earning a living and opposing those who attempt to make others lives more difficult by slowing the release of this beneficial crop.

          • richard

            Of course, nothing you want to hear is relevant to your precious GR…. You have conveniently cloistered yourself into a smug self certainty that your technology is exempt from criticism because it is somehow disconnected from the rest of the mess ag tech has created for itself…. Sadly for you its all part of the same reductionist nonsense that permeates the current discourse and is precisely the reason for the blowback from increasingly educated citizens of the planet, all who have heard enough” feed the world platitudes”. Your constant flight from the complexity of the big picture indicates both apathy and arrogance but will help you understand why your “opposing those” will become increasingly frustrating for you.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Again, please slow down and reconsider. If I was “cloistered” I would not have read much on the subject and would not be replying to you. “precious G.R.” I live in an area of sandy soils there is very well drained. I will never grow rice. So, this really does not effect me. This is one of those extremely rare occasions where I spend some of my time to effect positive change that really does not effect me. “reductionist nonsense” reducing a situation to its basic components is often very useful… You should try it.

          • richard

            …..And very often the reason why science and technology is irrevocably wrapped in paradigm paralysis……ie….cant feed the world no matter how much technology and hubris we throw at it…….

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Actually feeding the world is a misused term. There is food available. The problem is as I refered earlier, one of distribution. These problems are usually due to economics issues. Which are often related to politics. See Zimbabwe under Mugabe. So, the “arrogant folks who come up with the technology are succeeding.

          • richard

            Absolutely agree on the politics of food…..Sorry I dont make the connection between that and throwing more technology at a problem that isn’t technological in nature. Sounds like another specious argument.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            The technology can alleviate a deficiency problem, that is not a calorie/protein problem. There are other nutrition g.e. products in the pipeline. The technology saved the papaya industry in Hawaii. In fact the halo effect is probably assisting organic papaya growers in the islands. I, am glad they used the technology in Hawaii as it has helped people support themselves.

  • hyperzombie

    Wow, this from an agrologist? Jeepers…Does she not realize that the vast majority of very poor farmers already farm Organically, they have no choice, they have no money.
    If Brenda can find another crop high in vit A that stores as well as rice in the tropics, she might have a point, until that day she is just advocating for the early death of poor people.

  • Rightbiotech

    “The core issue here is not that rice is insufficiently nutritious. The real problem is that rice is the sole food source for vulnerable people.”

    I agree. For those who argue that it is resistance to GM that has prevented access, perhaps two reminders are necessary. First, there were years and years of delay as the owners of the intellectual property negotiated to finally engineer the ‘royalty free license’ under which it is proposed to be offered. (And it is still not ‘patent free’ as some in this thread suggest.) Those years of delay are also behind its slow development and had nothing to do with opposition to the technology (see http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919206000595). Second, the trait isn’t yet bred into rice adapted to the countries for which it is intended. There is no rice yet to give anyone, much less to support claims that if it were available it would actually be effective for people who are otherwise malnourished. The blame game over which delays have been more important is speculation.

    Meanwhile, the UN has published numerous reports that support the call for directing public capital into supporting multi-cropping and agroecological methods for the poor (e.g., PDF Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa. UNEP/UNCTAD ….) However, this doesn’t fit well with the drive of Western countries to develop technology packages and encourage private sector solutions.

    There is blame all around for the persistence of malnutrition jn general and VitA deficiency in particular, especially since the solutions have been with us for some time and pre-date engineered golden rice. The need for the rice has been a result of sociological choices, not the lack of a technology. And the solution being proposed won’t address the underlying poverty and other missing nutrients from the diets of the poor. Time to focus on real solutions even if this requires a return to greater public investment in agriculture to support farmers.

    • hyperzombie

      And the solution being proposed won’t address the underlying poverty and other missing nutrients from the diets of the poor.

      Yes that is the problem, they are poor and can only afford rice. All the other crops that are high in Vit A are either expensive or don’t store well. So unless you can solve poverty, don’t bash golden rice.

      • richard

        Yams, squash, corn are full of beta carotene, store well, can be dried, grow well in tropics and subtropics, and are cheap to buy. Its about providing seeds and a little knowledge capital…..OOPS that sounds like an organic solution….cant have that…..Bring in the gene jockeys!

        • hyperzombie

          Yams and especially corn (no vit A) are poor sources of Vit A, squash doesn’t store well and dried squash is used as a decoration, barely edible. And squash is a temperate seasonal crop, doesn’t do well in the tropics, along with carrots.

          Its about providing seeds and a little knowledge capital.

          They have seeds now, just not ones that contain vitamin A, or they wouldn’t have this problem.

          an organic solution

          The poor farm organically NOW, how would more of the same help these people?

          • richard

            Wrong again….Yams (sweet potato), squash, chois and many other deep green vegetables come from the tropics are full of beta carotene and can all be dried in the hot tropical sun for storage. Its all a matter of knowledge capital and little extension work…..versus the collossal billion dollar, top down, paternalistic, reductionist, ag hubris…..somehow trying to rationalize fifty years of failure of the green revolution…in the name of yellow rice.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            How has feeding folks for 50 years considered a failure? Not contending that mistakes weren’t made along the way. But I, for one grew up on that food. and am happy not to be dead.

          • hyperzombie

            Yams are a poor source of Vit A, squash when dried are as hard as a rock (ancient people used them instead of pottery), Chois seriously?

            Look, some of the smartest people on the planet have been working on this issue for over 80 years and you think dried up choi is the answer?? Wow. The simple fact is that these people need an Affordable, Storeable, simple to prepare food that will keep them alive and prevent blindness. Telling them to eat expensive bokchoi, weeds and squash is heartless and cruel. Why not tell them to just jump into the SUV and drive to the nearest Whole Foods for a Wheat-grass smoothie…
            Failure of the Green Revolution…..LOL…You are so funny.
            1981 42% of people were starving, today 12%,,,hardly a failure..

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        Sir, you forgot to point out to Richard that the folks in question already grow rice, have the correct circumstances, and are good at it. No learning curve and no draining the rice paddies to try different crops. In other words quick and efficient success.

      • Rightbiotech

        Asking critical questions about claims of benefit and safety are not bashing. They are a normal part of societal debate leading to decision making.
        The implication throughout this thread is that a few people have had the power to stop the development, testing and release of Golden Rice. If those people had such power, then over 90% of corn and soy, nearly 100% of sugar beet, in the US would not be GM.
        The history of GR is that it was held up by IP disputes for years and years, required years and years of refinement to developer GR2, the first variety to get to levels of beta-carotene that even theoretically relevant, and remains locked into a variety of rice, Japanica, that is irrelevant to most of the target audience (who grow Indica).
        What holds up GR is the same system that promotes it. The system that relies on IP to build private wealth and normal challenges behind technology development.
        The irony is that no new technology really is required to eliminate VitA deficiency as the Helen Keller organisation has shown. It only takes transferring money back to public programs for the distribution of supplements, and re-investing in farmer extension services and inexpensive farming science in the regions of the world that need such support.

  • Robert Saik

    Why is organic ANTI-GMO?

    This is a classic example of where BioTech has been sidelined by activists while MILLIONS go blind and/or die. The answer is “They should eat weeds”?

    This is Non-Science.

    This article is not a solution to the world’s poor but rather a postulation by a privileged “rich”.

    If they had the money to buy fruits and vegetables…they would

    I wonder if the author has ever traveled to the poor.

    I wonder if the author really knows the issue of even what vitamin is involved.

    This is a sad statement of our 1st world understanding of the situation of some of the poorest farmers on the planet.

    It is the likes of Green Peace and articles like this that have tainted a technology with so much promise.

    This kind of hretoric does ABSOLUTLEY NO GOOD!

    • Eric Bjerregaard

      Many are just anti big agriculture. They are using g.e.. as an excuse. As you can tell from reading the comments. They will soon lose that excuse. Some of the local organic folks in my are realize that the combining both techniques would be helpful. They keep their mouths shut because of fear of losing market customers. Mind you I am not a big organic booster. Just think it has a place where organic inputs are cost effective.

      • richard

        Many are just anti “the big lie”….that somehow we can get infinite resources out of a finite planet……Pretty hard to see how they will lose that excuse??

        • Eric Bjerregaard

          The big lie? Do you mean the claim that organic can feed the world? If so, with what inputs will they fertilize the Sahel, Iowa, Texas, Alberta, and large areas in Brazil? Truth is that calming down, and looking at what hyper, first officer and others have been writing will be in your best interest. None of them has advocated anything that will increase pollution, destroy soil, or get infinite resources from a finite planet. Truth is all those resources will eventually be recycled somehow. We have to find cost effective ways of doing so.

          • richard

            Not my claim pal, just more of patronizing and sophistry…..The” big lie” is that modern agriculture is progressive….and sustainable……The truth is the the entire spectre of industrial agriculture has been externalized to the environment…..privatize the profits, socialize the costs…….Polluted watersheds, rampant weed, pest, disease and and antibiotic resistance, health care costs spiralling out of control and the public left to finance the reconciling the entire mess…..the actual cost of agribiz hubris. When you and your ilk are finally dragged out on the carpet into the new world of full cost accounting, you will rapidly sober from your kool aid high to the realization that the only way to conserve resources is not to waste them and the only way to clean up your mess is not to create it. The flight from complexity rampant in modern agriculture… the complete lack of situational awareness in ecosystem management is utterly laughable except its so damn serious. It gives one pause to consider that in the midst of The Sixth Mass Extinction that we are rapidly becoming canaries in our own mineshaft. What a sad fate for a race of angels…..

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            “privatize the profits” Guess what the profits already belong to private entities. So, wrong again. The lefty side of you is showing. Without profit you have no resources to invest in future advances. Profit is a good thing. “situational analyses” That is what I have been advocating all along. There is a deficiency. G.R. can minimize it quickly and is a long term solution. quit trying to stop humanitarian progress.

          • richard

            Sorry not a socialist…a self avowed entrepenueur…nice try….but weak….I figured you would avoid the hard question about costs with your glib mini lecture on profits…..Thanx for the news captain obvious? The real difference between you and I is the fact that I have no fear of exposing the hypocrisy in industrial agriculture….and sadly you epitomize it. Relative ideological terms like efficiency, productivity and progress have zero meaning when confronted with the reality that a significant portion of actual costs in agriculture are externalized to the environment. When political pressure and ecological breakdown force you and the cult of denial into full cost accounting your dogmatic assertions will reveal themselves as truly weak, much like your patronizing of anyone who disagrees with you. The fact is its the revelations are already coming down….which is why you and your cohorts in the cult are continually left spinning your wheels to the tune of “Better living through denial”.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            I doubt that my use of several hundred cubic yards of horse stall muck as mulch epitomizes industrial agriculture. And if you don’t want an economics lesson. Do not use phrases like privatize profits. What was I supposed to think?

          • richard

            you’re practically organic…..and therefore understand it is verboten to externalize the cost of your waste into the environment. Ecology and economy are the same thing….we’re too immature as a race to acknowledge this fact.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            This is why I have been trying to get you to read the other posters comments more thoroughly. Hyper, for example criticizes organic, but there is no reason to assume he would criticize my mulching a greenhouse floor prior to planting pineapple suckers. I use some chemical ferts, some “organic. I use synthetic pryethrin usually, on my wonderful fire ants. I do not want to ever be beholden to a particular philosophy or method. I often use coffee grounds to kill insects. I do what I consider to be cost effective and to my and my customers long term benefit. When the level of fear I detect in my customers goes down I may grow some BT corn. Using my methods.

  • hyperzombie

    I disagree with your premise that organic is the best/only way to ending the poverty and malnutrition of these subsistence farmers and that Golden Rice can’t be a part of the solution.

    I dont understand why some people think that organic farming methods could do anything for these people. The poorest farmers farm “Organically” now, they have no money for pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. It is “batcrap” crazy to think this.

    • Amelia Jordan

      Rob Wallbridge called me on out my anti-organic rhetoric, and he’s right. Organic farming uses new technologies just like non-organic, and to say that only organic is the solution would be just as bad as saying only conventional is the solution.

      First world farmers have the luxuries of modern technology, loans, infrastructure, accessible healthcare in case they get sick, integrated education and extension systems that provide much needed support, temporary farm labor and capital to hire that labor, and many more opportunities that developing world farmers to not have at all.

      The solution that the writer is looking for does not encompass restricting farming methods based on ideology, but exploring without bias the practical solutions.

      • hyperzombie

        The solution that the writer is looking for does not encompass restricting farming methods based on ideology, but exploring without bias the practical solutions.

        Really, did you read the above artical? No ideology, like right.

        Another benefit from replacing herbicides and pesticides with organic methods is that paddies might provide aquatic habitat, allowing the harvesting of fish and other proteins. They may attract other animals as well, with further harvesting options.

        Modern herbicides and pesticides would allow you to grow both fish and crops easier, Organic pesticides would kill all the fish.

        • Amelia Jordan

          I should have phrased that sentence better. The author’s solution is based on ideology and not unbiased, practical farming methods.

          • hyperzombie

            I kind of knew what you meant anyways. It is articles like this that really piss me off. Like come on “Let them eat Weeds” is just an affront to all that is decent.

            Lets provide all the tools that are out there to help these people, to do less is just immoral..

  • Rick Aucoin

    Seriously? “Let them eat weeds”? This is the policy recommendation?
    No one is asserting that golden rice is a panacea to solve third world poverty. NO ONE. So an article which stands against golden rice because it’s not a panacea to solve third world poverty is nothing but an argument against a strawman of its own construction.
    The author makes assertions which are flat out misleading, such as claiming “Organic methods of growing food are widely recognized as offering the best potential to increase yields…” In truth “organic” farming methods reduce yields, by as much as 43% in the developing world. So the author is proposing that subsistence farmers of rice can afford a 40% loss in crop yield and not *literally starve to death*?
    The first-world arrogance of this article is just breathtaking. The people who will most benefit from golden rice are not farming rice as their sole crop due to some “monoculture”. They’re farming rice as their sole crop because it’s the only thing they can grow to avoid *literally starving to death*.
    What is the point of this article? That golden rice doesn’t solve all of third world poverty’s ills, so it’s a bad thing and shouldn’t be implemented as a tool to aid those who suffer from Vitamin A Deficiency Disease?
    Seriously? That’s your thesis?
    Just… amazing. “Let them eat weeds”, indeed.
    One hopes this article truly does not represent the thinking of anyone at The Western Producer. One wonders how this article even made it past your editors desk without anyone breaking out in belly laughs or grinding their teeth in outrage over the author’s gall at lecturing subsistence farmers for not eating more WEEDS.

    • Hi Rick,

      The “article” you refer to is an opinion piece.

      We welcome ALL opinions here.

      Thank you for sharing yours.

      Cheers,
      Paul – WP web ed

      • Rick Aucoin

        There is no indication that this is an “opinion” piece at the top of the page.
        Secondly, just because something is an opinion piece that doesn’t mean it wasn’t reviewed and approved to be published by the staff at Western Producer.
        That means the content of the “Opinion” pieces do reflect on the paper which publishes them, like it or not.
        My curiosity was centered on who at Western Producer thought this article was well written and factual enough to deserve publication?

    • Brandie Nadiger-Harrop

      I eat the weeds in my yard. they are very yummy. What is wrong with eating weeds? they are everywhere and they are free. Even my kids like the weeds lol

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        Actually many of the weeds at my place are edible and I do leave a few to reseed that I find useful. So, there may be a grain of truth in there. My assumption would be that the locals have looked into this for several thousand years. So, for me to suggest that there would be enough to cure deficiency symptoms would be even dumber than my usual posts. More arrogant as well.

  • richard

    Listen to the agribiz missionaries come out of their cubicles in self righteous indignation…… It kinda reminds me of Groucho Marx: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someones’s not out to get you”…..After forty years of telling us how the technix of modern industrial agriculture were going to feed the planet, the most “noble” thing these people have to offer the world is what?… beta carotene rice! Are you people serious??? We have eight hundred million starving citizens of the planet, two billion gorged into obesity, ecosytstems wreaked with the hubris of modern industrial agriculture… herbicide, pesticide and antibiotic resistance running rampant….And somehow the “intelligentsia” of “pedal to the metal” status quo ignorance are clinging to the faint hope of one little flake of agri technology……Perhaps what is required are less eggheads and more realists. Yeah the people who understand intuitively that the feeding 9B 2050 is nothing more than agribiz hyperbole for blind subservience to technology……

    • hyperzombie

      Richard, these poor subsistence farmers use Organic methods NOW. The 800 million starving people use Organic methods NOW. How will switching them to a method that they already employ do anything to help them.
      The most food secure countries in the world use modern Ag, not hippie farming.

      • richard

        Zombieman (woman), evidently you missed the fact that I didn’t suggest that starving citizens “switch” to anything. I would however suggest that perhaps ivory temple “experts” switch to reality, rather than carry on with the delusion that industrial agriculture is “progress”, and actually gives a damn about starving masses. I think we both know that agribiz is about feeding balance sheets not hungry people. By the way “hippie” farming is now a $60B USD international trade and it occurs to me by the tone of all the “experts” here, that this fact makes a lot of people red with rage…..

        • Eric Bjerregaard

          The tone has been rather constructive compared to yours.
          Try reading the posts again,,,calmly,,, and you will realize that these folks want to see progress. Furthermore the errors of the past are often being corrected and are not relevant to G.R.

          • richard

            Furthermore the errors of the past are often not being corrected, they are being amplified Nitrates, phosphates, agritoxins and pharma insidiously invading our watersheds leading to eutrophication and ultimately hypoxia is one example. And yes Eric,it is relevant to GR and GMO because it all flows from the same set of reductionist hubris where being at war with nature is perceived to be progress….Please explain to me how exponential loading of toxicity into the biosphere is going to lead to a healthier civilization…….? It is this unequivocal flight from complexity that leads people who have not yet abandoned their critical faculties, to not believe anything you and your peers profess to be truth.

          • hyperzombie

            .Please explain to me how exponential loading of toxicity into the biosphere is going to lead to a healthier civilization…….?

            GMOs allow farmers to use far safer toxins and far less of the dangerous ones. It also make no/min tillage far easier, allowing for LESS soil erosion and far less nitrification. If you want a world with less toxins and less environmental damage you should support GMOs.

          • richard

            More of your ongoing flight from complexity, perhaps its the neonics…… “Agriculture is the greatest non point source of pollution in the United States of America” ( Alternative Agriculture, National Research Council of America)

          • hyperzombie

            “Agriculture is the greatest non point source of pollution in the United States of America”

            Did you notice the NON part in that sentence? The number one polluter of air is industry (non Ag), and for groundwater it is human sewage.
            So lets go over this again, if you want less Ag chemicals sprayed,,,GMO is the way to go.
            If you want less tlliage and soil erosion, GMO is the way to go.
            If you want less and more efficient use of fertilizers,,,conventional with GMOs are the way to go.
            If you want more land for Mother Nature,,,Gmos are the way to go.

          • richard

            If you wanna be at war with nature….GMOs are the way to go!

          • hyperzombie

            Agriculture is a war against Mother Nature, that is why humans invented it in the first place, we dont live in a Disney Movie.

          • richard

            What kind of banal platitude is that zombie?

          • Dayton

            Best explain your no till concept to your buddies. Those running around in the dust clouds pulling heavy harrows and Salford discs.

          • hyperzombie

            Heavy harrows and speed discs are all part of a good conservation tillage plan. Cultivators, regular discs, and plows are not.

          • Dayton

            Really, and we never heard of Fusarium, Blackleg, hardpan, and all the other associated problems with No till prior to GMO. Oh but they save fuel… that’s it…

        • hyperzombie

          I think we both know that agribiz is about feeding balance sheets not hungry people. By the way “hippie” farming is now a $60B USD international trade and it occurs to me by the tone of all the “experts” here, that this fact makes a lot of people red with rage…..

          LOL, Do you even read what you write? Can I start calling it Big Organic now, or does it have to hit 100 billion?

          • richard

            Call it what you want, but it is the fastest growing trend in food production….and it liberates its producers because it is an internally optimized systems approach…..the exact opposite of the agribiz model.

          • hyperzombie

            but it is the fastest growing trend in food production
            Hilarious, not even close. Gm is the fastest growing trend in Ag ever. 20 years ago 0% GMO, today the farmers that have access to these seeds 90% plus grow them, and every country shows the same trend. In India Bt cotton went from 0% to 98% in only 7 years, sugar beet farmers went from 0% to 99% in 6 years. Wow talk about popular. Certified Organic in the US went from 0% of farm land in 1996 to 0.6% in 2012, 0,4% in Canada, and 0.28% in India.

            .and it liberates its producers

            Hardly, if you have a sick “Organic” animal can you treat it with the best medicine, Nope, you will loose certification for that animal. Organic rules constrain farmers from using the best methods that is why it is not popular. The only think Organic does it “liberate” more money from consumers pockets for the same thing.

          • richard

            $65B usd with a fifteen percent growth rate and there is nothing your envy and hyperbole are going to do to change this…..Furthermore sick animals are segregated and given conventional treatment, either meeting the quarantine requirements of certification or sold as conventional. Producers are liberated because they are not irrevocably trapped in the recurring cost/price squeeze of the agribiz casino.

          • hyperzombie

            fifteen percent growth rate and there is nothing your envy and hyperbole are going to do to change this…..

            Well in the US it is about 11.2% growth in sales, but in Europe sales have flat lined over the last few years with an overall drop in UK sales. Organic grows to be about 6% of market share and just flat lines. It seems that you cant get more than a few % of people to pay way more for the same thing.

            .Furthermore sick animals are segregated and given conventional treatment, either meeting the quarantine requirements of certification or sold as conventional.

            In the US if you give an antibiotic to any Organic animal it is no longer Organic, causing much undue animal suffering.

            irrevocably trapped in the recurring cost/price squeeze of the agribiz casino.

            What???? If you really want to check out an agribiz casino, check out the organic feed and grain prices some time, and then look up the yield variability for Organic crops.

          • richard

            Just more fear, envy and loathing….The fact is its a $65B endorsement by an increasingly savvy consumer who has heard enough about how clever it is to saturate the biosphere in agrotoxins??? Zombie, I dont know why you continue to lecture me…I could care less how you farm. You need to convince consumers that youre smarter than they think you are…..

          • hyperzombie

            Just more fear, envy and loathing….

            Hardly, i know many Organic farmers, my Grandfather is one, my Uncle was one, and I have many acquaintances that farm Organically. I have nothing against Organic farming or its producers (well except the stupid “no antibiotics” rule) . That being said Organic is a Premium or a vanity crop, like a fine wine or a hand built car, but as a savior of the biosphere it is sorely lacking. It is more energy and labor intensive, takes up more land, produces a smaller yield, causes it own sets of environmental problems, and the big kicker it is not sustainable either.

            I dont know why you continue to lecture me

            I am not lecturing you, just giving you a cold dose of reality. The Simple fact is if Organic worked better in any way farmers would be all over it, it would not be languishing down at less than 1% of all farms. I can understand Organic fruits and veggies, but row crops (corn, wheat, rice) it is just impracticable on a large scale.

            I could care less how you farm.

            I don’t care how you farmer either. So why are you against GR for the poor in Asia, why do you care what they farm.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Ah…So I see the point of diminishing returns I spoke of may be nearing. Thanks

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Organic may be a fast growing trend, and I use some organic techniques. However the organic agribiz model, and that is what it is, will hit a point of diminishing returns as the inputs increase in price and/or need to be shipped farther. The resulting higher prices will eventually limit growth. I happen to believe that us aging hippies are helping to recycle when we use such inputs.

        • Eric Bjerregaard

          “rage” look at the way you addressed hyperzombie. Looks like you are the one with a rage problem. How would you know about the ‘ivory temple” status of those who oppose you? Another emotional claim with no factual backing. hyper could be aguy who donates money and time to develop products such as G.R.

          • richard

            Yeah, yeah….he could be the pope for all I know…..but here he does nothing but make a lot of apocryphal statements…..and I for one simple cannot prevent myself from calling “schmautzy” on agribiz zealots and their platitudes…..I hope you will forgive me….its nothing personal……I’m sure poor zombie is a decent guy…..when he comes back to life?

    • hyperzombie

      After forty years of telling us how the technix of modern industrial agriculture were going to feed the planet, the most “noble” thing these people have to offer the world is what?

      How many less are hungry today compared to 96 when GMOs came out? Oh, only 130 million, not much it is only the population of Canada x4.

      beta carotene rice!

      Got a better idea? lets hear it….Maybe like the author of this piece “Let them eat Weeds”?

      • richard

        Well pal, lots of intelligent people eat weeds….. the kind of people who rely on themselves not the state (chronic healthcare) for their personal well being….. Lambs quarters, pigweed, nettles, all kinds of wild herbs are both nutritious and medicinal. Yeah I know this only makes sense to those who haven’t drank the “kool aid” of “progress”, but it’s a fact…… Eighty percent of the planet eats insects too….and I would imagine that these people see this kind of nutrition as far more appetizing than witnessing two billion obese westerners gorging themselves on the excess of industrial agriculture and “antinutrition”……With every major ecostystem on the planet under duress, your industry’s mantra that somehow trying to feed 9B 2050 is apocalyptic in its flight from complexity…..again, based on feeding corporate balance sheets…not people.

        • hyperzombie

          Well pal, lots of intelligent people eat weeds….. the kind of people who rely on themselves not the state (chronic healthcare) for their personal well being….. Lambs quarters, pigweed, nettles, all kinds of wild herbs are both nutritious and medicinal.

          No disagreement from me, but these weeds are not going to feed 800 million people and most don’t grow in the tropics. If we started weed farming it would just be another crop, like barley and rye, both were weeds in wheat at one time.

          Eighty percent of the planet eats insects too.

          A poor source of vitamin A, but high in protein, they need carbs not proteins.

  • Ddant

    This article is either poorly researched, deliberately full of misinformation or both. As my father (83) is quick to point out, the dirty 30’s was the last time everyone organic farmed here on the prairies. Not sure that was such a great success.

    • hyperzombie

      No kidding, and these poor subsistence farmers farm organically NOW. They have no money to buy fertilizer, pesticides or giant tractors, how will making them farm the same crappy way help anything…

  • madcapfeline

    Why don’t you just go build them a Whole Foods? I mean, if we’re going to impose our western culture and dietary habits on them, might as well go whole hog, right?

    • hyperzombie

      Yes, then they could just load up the kids in the SUV and take them to WF, maybe stopping at the DQ for a few treats on the way home, it is OK cause they bought some Organic carrots and Kale.
      Solving poverty and poor nutrition is so easy……..I wonder why none of these academics even thought of this…

  • Eco-Sustainable

    This piece is full of confused ideas. Golden Rice has a clear primary objective: combat vitamin A deficiency in afflicted countries. Problems like “poverty” and “agricultural failure” (whatever that means) are more complicated and can only be solved in the long term. You are welcome to solve “poverty” through organic agriculture (good luck on that!) but VAD is a real and current problem that must be addressed as quickly as possible.

  • PortageMain

    Brenda, let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good here. Just because Golden Rice doesn’t solve all the nutritional issues of people is no reason to oppose it. It will give millions of people access to beta carotene that they don’t currently have, and it doesn’t stop anybody from working on the broader issue of poverty and hunger in these countries.
    That said, I’m glad to see the article sparked so many comments. This is the most comments I’ve ever seen on a WP article, and it’s encouraging to see that so many people are paying attention. Unfortunately, part of the reason there are so many comments is because of the many factual errors in the article. The WP might want to fact-check Brenda’s submissions in the future. Even an opinion piece shouldn’t be published when it has so many glaring errors

    • Thanks for taking the time to write and share your thoughts.

      We’re also happy the column has generated as much discussion as it has.

      However, I respectfully disagree with your comment about the piece being published, “with so many glaring errors.”

      Based on a lively discussion held here at WP world HQ earlier this a.m. it was concluded the piece has one “error” only – unfortunately for us it’s in the first line.

      Nothing like shooting yourself in the foot right out of the gate! But we missed the A/D mixup – our bad.

      Any other controversial points appear, upon further reflection, to be a matter of opinion, not factual error.

      And, as I’ve said many times before in this forum, we welcome – and will continue to welcome – a diversity of opinion within our pages and online.

      I’ll be the first to tell you I’m no expert on Golden Rice. I’ve learned more about Golden Rice in the last 48 hours than in the preceding 48 years.

      I’m hopeful you’ll feel comfortable sharing the other “errors” you feel the column contains so they can be debated here by people much more knowledgeable than I on the issue.

      Cheers,
      Paul – WP web ed

      • PortageMain

        Paul, thanks for responding. “Glaring errors” probably wasn’t the best term for me to use, although the writer mischaracterizes (in several places) the patents on Golden Rice, which a few of the commenters have also mentioned:

        “It is hard to see how entering into a patent protected process with powerful first world companies will increase African or Asian farmers’ ability to secure viable options.”

        “Who would truly benefit from golden rice? Perhaps its patent holders…”

        From Wikipedia “as long as a farmer or subsequent user of golden rice genetics does not make more than $10,000 per year, no royalties need to be paid. In addition, farmers are permitted to keep and replant seed.”[48].http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_rice

        The vitamin A/D mixup in the first paragraph could really be considered a typo; it was correctly noted as Vitamin A later in the original article

        Many of the other “facts” she cites and conclusions she draws are quite debatable. There was no indication on the web version I read that it was an opinion piece (although you have pointed it out in the comments section), and it could reasonably be construed that the writer was making factual points.

  • Loren Eaton

    Great Ms. Frick. What’s stopping you from doing any of this? If anti-GM types such as yourself spent half as much energy MOVING methods forward as you do hindering the ones you find objectionable, the problem would be solved (theoretically). Fact is that GR is not intended to solve the entire problem of malnutrition or make rice into a perfectly balanced food. It does, however, solve an acute nutrient problem while continuing to be a source of calories for people who desperately need them. If you’re so sure it will fail, LET IT FAIL. As I said before GR is not standing in the way of any other solutions.

  • ForGMOEducation

    Why would anyone write an article that seems to have the message that we should not use a tool we now have that could combat malnutrition? We should be trying every way we can to fight this problem.
    Additionally, I am surprised by the number of errors in this article considering it was written by a PhD in agroecology. There is nothing that prevents Golden Rice from being grown in the same traditional ways as the rice already being grown in these areas. There are no pesticides or herbicides required for Golden Rice. The modification to include higher levels of vitamin A contains no pesticides proteins or resistance to herbicides. Finally, this article suggests that patent holders would benefit from Golden Rice even though that would not happen in real life were Golden Rice approved. The patent for Golden Rice is held by the universities that created it. Golden Rice seeds would be available to farmers in certain geographic regions that make less than $10,000 per year. There wouldn’t be any profits from this. Even if somehow there were some profit (but there won’t be because people using this product can’t pay for it), the worst thing that could possibly happen is that public universities would receive money to use on improving our nation’s education.
    I’m tired of seeing statements that suggest organic agriculture doesn’t use pesticides. We all know that isn’t true. Since when is monoculture a “GMO problem”? It’s an agriculture problem, and there are plenty of organic farms that use monoculture.

    • hyperzombie

      It’s an agriculture problem, and there are plenty of organic farms that use monoculture.

      Hmmm. I wonder what they grow on those ancient “Rice Paddies” that have been around for 1000 s of years?

    • John Davids

      Golden rice as a supplement is fine in that additional vitamin A in rice
      won’t likely hurt anyone as long as any undesired other proteins
      created when inserting the genes for producing vitamin a do not
      eventually cause allergenic reactions. The problem Golden Rice will have
      in adoption is due to the legal and inflation issues that surround it’s
      royalty free rules for growers producing less than $10K. Due to
      inflation 100 years ago $400 was equivalent to $10K today. First of all
      the value of the US dollar could easily diminish in the future as it’s
      oil and gas reserves reduce. Secondly as years go by more and more
      farmers could due to inflation and improvements in production due to
      investment in developing nations in production capacity be producing be
      producing around or more than the $10K limit above which the farmer has
      to pay royalties thus increasing the price of rice to people who
      traditionally can barely afford it. Further an adherence system with
      people hired to try to verify if farmers are cheating the system will
      need to be put in place which will cost even more. Some farmers will get
      engaged in legal battles with a he said she said style of legal battle
      with corporate interests trying to portray the farmer as liars who
      should be paying royalties. Many farmers will lose their farms just as
      is already happening in America with Corn. Huge class action lawsuits
      like those in Brazil will be wasting valuable resources. Why not just
      grow some passion fruit and carrots? This article is correct in stating
      that diversity is important. We can’t solve the worlds nutritional
      problems with corn and rice. Poor people need to be able to afford a
      balanced diet.

      • ForGMOEducation

        Hi John,

        I see you have named several proposed legal and monetary
        issues that you believe will occur if Golden Rice is introduced. Please
        remember that Golden Rice has not been introduced, so there is great potential
        to correct issues (since they currently don’t exist) prior to release. For
        example, tying the minimum income required to a the currency of a country with
        a historically stagnant currency value or even to the value of a precious metal
        would solve nearly all inflation issues. This is what is usually done with
        international issues such as these.

        Additionally, I’m also confused about the statements that
        mention lawsuits and rising prices of Golden Rice so that those with the lowest
        income could no longer afford it. Golden Rice would primarily be going to
        subsistence farmers, who would eat themselves. Most would be consumed by the
        families growing the rice and little sold. The seeds would be provided each
        year, so there would be no way these people couldn’t afford to buy the rice
        (it’s free).

        I have a few more questions too. How are these subsistence
        farmers getting into lawsuits with companies? Who are these companies? Golden
        Rice was created by public universities not companies. How are they paying for
        lawyers (many countries do not have right to free legal representation like the
        U.S.)? Furthermore, what would these lawsuits even be over? They would need a
        reason to take place. Needless to say, I’m not sure how you are devising the
        whole scenario you mentioned. It seems rather imaginative.

        The areas where Golden Rice would be released are all areas
        where more conventional methods of curbing malnutrition have already been used
        for decades, yet malnutrition still persists. Farming aide (much like your
        passion fruit and carrot example) as well as vitamin A shots are already used
        in these areas. They are not working. I agree with you that there is not a “one
        approach” answer to anything. Golden Rice is simply a tool to fight
        malnutrition. It is not a complete answer. It is part of one.

        Lastly, how are farmers losing their corn farms in America?
        I’m currently in Ohio, where I grew up, and I have yet to meet anyone who lost his
        or her farm due to GMOs either directly or indirectly. Everyone I know has
        willingly given up his or her farm for land development (building businesses or
        homes), which has nothing to do with genetic engineering.

  • August Pamplona

    It is hard to see how entering into a patent protected process with
    powerful first world companies will increase African or Asian farmers’
    ability to secure viable options.

    This reads as if written by someone who has not bothered to learn what the licensing terms attached to the GR2 event actually are.

    • ForGMOEducation

      That’s why the patents would be held by public universities. No profit to be made and no company involvement.

  • Debbie Owen

    Just because you don’t agree with the author doesn’t mean the article is “full of errors”, the fact is Golden rice is just a very expensive failed experiment.

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    You deleted my snark and left this repeated nonsense. You publish errors. you get snark.

    • Debbie Owen

      I don’t work for the Western Producer so I’m not able to delete any of your “snark”.

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        Debbie my comment was directed at the moderator since he deleted a comment I posted earlier. I complimented their use of sarcasm to make their point; Thus pointing out my agreement with their point. In answer to your comment. G.R. was not produced free. No one claimed that. The point is that they are waiving their patent rights for subsistence farmers making less than 10 grand [I think} a year. And it has not failed. as others have pointed out.

  • hyperzombie

    Supplements are much cheaper and more effective

    Cheaper than free? With Golden rice, rice farmer will continue growing rice, it will just have additional nutrition. There will be no additional cost. How can it be a failed experiment when it is not even out yet?

    • Debbie Owen

      LOL!!!! You think Golden rice was produced for free???!!! No, it cost millions, and by the way, it’s not out yet because it has failed.

  • Bill Crabtree

    For more information on golden rice, see; http://goldenrice.org/Content3-Why/why3a_FAQ.php

  • ed

    40 bowls of golden rice per day to get a daily dose doesn’t sound like it will solve much nutritional issues anywhere. Looks like a PR scam!

  • RuralFarmer

    Thanks go out to the WP for publishing this much needed opinion piece. Judging by the majority of narrow-minded and missinformed comments below there is an urgent need for more opinion pieces such as this. Thanks Brenda for stating the obvious.

    • Eco-Sustainable

      I think a lot of the comments below really make sense. According to Brenda, Golden Rice is a failure because it doesn’t address “poverty”. But this logic fails when you think that Golden Rice’s primary purpose isn’t about eliminating “poverty”, but to address Vitamin A deficiency in afflicted countries.

  • Eric Nicolas Schneider

    There’s a good important truth in this one.

    Despite 30 years of big claims GMOs have produced ZERO relevant human food crop. soy, corn, cotton(!) atre not for human consumption.

    WHY? becauzse isince the year 2000 we know that the genes are way too complex to comprehend. view the human genome project, and many plants even have more genes that humans do!

    THE ONLY THING they have achieved is polluting genes by SHOOTING (literally!!) the BT into plants, thats all. And BT has been backfiring as PROJECTED by proper holistic swcientists in such super weeds that enrtire regions of the southern USA are not lost to superweeds, not even 10x the amount ofpesticides has helpd ANYTGHING any longer. In other US states, courts are making monsanto pay for farmers so they can buy additional toxins from competitors!

    And now after all those fake promises are bust, they introducde WORSE AND WORSE pesticides, the agent orange ingreidnest.

    So
    – WHERE is the decrease in toxins they püromised?
    – WHERE is the healthy food abundance they promised in 20% OF US AMERICAN go hungry every day HAHAHAHHAHAHAH… solve that first ebfore cliaming to feed the poor in countries that they care even less about than their own darker tanned citizens 😉

    hahahah

    No, the solutions networks exist and are well present over there. You just dont hear of them. Organic is big in Germany, but the markets are being heavily torpedoed by the industry, for example: organic farmers have to PAY for the tests, whereas toxic farmers dont have to – this is part of why organic is more expensive – this is a government unfair regulation built by the toxic lobbies. Further, if toxic ag had to PAY for cleanign up the contaminated soils, rivers etc the toxic food would be MORE EXPENSIVE, but those billions are paid by your state’s tax money. Organic causes NO side effects.

    YOU are relying on provincial north american information influenced by industry. Others dont, they see the facts, thats why they do this:

    Some states of India are switching to 100% organic now. and in the Phillipines for example they are preparing 100% switch to organic rice via the ministry.

    Small farmers still feed 70% of the world pop, and their output per hectare is 3 to 50 times higher than big ag monoculture.

    United Nations reports involving millions of people show the same with numbers from the past 40 years. If GMo could feed people, then ask why 20% of american go hungry every day? And why you ahve epidemic childhood allergies kids dying from peanuts today in the USA, childhood cancer crauzy on the rise. Do you think this comes from organic or watching trhe simpsons?

    THATS WHY THE UNITED NATIONS sum it up in their UNCTAD report: industrial ag has failed for 50 years ot create food security, in fact they make it worse through soaring manipulated prices fuel vs food, and destroying soils + ecosystems + regional markets.

    Thats why the UN had the year of FAMILY FARMING this year – did you know that? or are you limited to your provincial view?

    Lots happening there. In the 80’s, regional inof’d citizens would have said “i dont know”, today everybody entitles themselves to a malinformed OPINION.

    • Eric Bjerregaard

      Eric, papayas, sweet corn, and squash are on the market that are g.r. more products will be here soon. The G.R. will make it into farms soon. There is the rose pineapple that has a tangerine gene added for vitamin production. So zero is incorrect.

  • John Davids

    Golden rice as a supplement is fine in that additional vitamin A in rice won’t likely hurt anyone as long as any undesired other proteins created when inserting the genes for producing vitamin a do not eventually cause allergenic reactions. The problem Golden Rice will have in adoption is due to the legal and inflation issues that surround it’s royalty free rules for growers producing less than $10K. Due to inflation 100 years ago $400 was equivalent to $10K today. First of all the value of the US dollar could easily diminish in the future as it’s oil and gas reserves reduce. Secondly as years go by more and more farmers could due to inflation and improvements in production due to investment in developing nations in production capacity be producing be producing around or more than the $10K limit above which the farmer has to pay royalties thus increasing the price of rice to people who traditionally can barely afford it. Further an adherence system with people hired to try to verify if farmers are cheating the system will need to be put in place which will cost even more. Some farmers will get engaged in legal battles with a he said she said style of legal battle with corporate interests trying to portray the farmer as liars who should be paying royalties. Many farmers will lose their farms just as is already happening in America with Corn. Huge class action lawsuits like those in Brazil will be wasting valuable resources. Why not just grow some passion fruit and carrots? This article is correct in stating that diversity is important. We can’t solve the worlds nutritional problems with corn and rice. Poor people need to be able to afford a balanced diet.