Greenpeace Golden Rice stance baffling

It was 43 years ago when I boarded an old fishing boat named the Phyllis Cormack in Vancouver on the first Greenpeace campaign to stop nuclear testing in Alaska.

I never dreamed that 43 years later, Greenpeace would be arriving in Vancouver on a $32 million ship, and that this time I would be going down to protest against them.

I’m still proud of the work Green-peace did during the 15 years I was in the leadership. I left because it had drifted from a humanitarian effort to save civilization from all-out nuclear war to an organization that sees humans as the enemies of the Earth. How else could it justify its opposition to Golden Rice?

Two humanitarian scientists, Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer, used their knowledge of genetics to create Golden Rice, a variety of rice that contains beta carotene, the essential nutrient that we make into vitamin A.

They were aware that two million people, mostly young children, die each year from vitamin A deficiency. Most of them live in urban slums in Asia and Africa and eat little more than a cup of rice each day.

Conventional rice contains no beta carotene, resulting in 250 million preschool children who have chronic vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is necessary for eyesight and the immune system. As many as 500,000 children go blind each year, half of whom die within a year of becoming blind, according to the World Health Organization.

Greenpeace has made a concerted effort to block Golden Rice’s introduction since it was announced in 2000.

The organization has waged a campaign of misinformation, trashed the scientists who are working to bring Golden Rice to the people who need it and supported the violent destruction of Golden Rice field trials at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

How does Greenpeace justify this heartless behavior?

It claims there may be “unforeseen” consequences for human health and the environment but are unable to specify a single health risk with Golden Rice. That’s because the only difference between white rice and Golden Rice is the beta carotene, an essential nutrient that is necessary for good health.

As for environmental risks, Greenpeace says it is concerned that Golden Rice may cross with other rice plants. There is no imaginable way this could cause damage and could only make rice more nutritious. To suggest that the threat of rice interbreeding is more important than two million deaths every year is pathetic.

Greenpeace also claims that Golden Rice will not solve the problem and that children should eat leafy vegetables and take vitamin A pills.

However, they suffer from malnutrition because they can’t afford pills and have no place to grow vegetables. Golden Rice is like a vitamin pill in a grain of rice.

As well, Greenpeace claims that Golden Rice may not be effective in delivering vitamin A to children, but it knows that Gwangwen Tang and her colleagues at Tufts University and the Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences in China have already proven that Golden Rice is effective.

After conducting nutritional trials with animals and then adults in the United States, the researchers fed 23 Chinese children one meal of Golden Rice and tested to see if they had absorbed the beta carotene. The results, which were published in 2012 in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, demonstrate conclusively that Golden Rice is effective.

The real reason Greenpeace is opposed to Golden Rice is because it is genetically modified and it can’t seem to imagine that even one beneficial crop might result from this technique. It is willing to put its zero-tolerance ideology ahead of a critical humanitarian mission.

We recently launched the Allow Golden Rice Now! campaign at www.allowgoldenricenow.org. We are not asking Greenpeace to give up its general dislike of genetically modified food. We are only demanding that it make an exception to its policy, on humanitarian grounds, for Golden Rice.

Dr. Patrick Moore was a co-founder of Greenpeace and helped lead the organization for 15 years. He is now an independent ecologist and environmentalist working from Vancouver.

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