Scientists against environmentalists

From Raphaela Birrer . Updated 23/01/2014

The battle for genetically modified golden rice comes to a head. The food could save lives in poor regions. Greenpeace opposes it. Researchers launch an offensive.

Scientists Protest Greenpeace Patrick Moore (second from left) calls for a speedy approval of golden rice, which wants to prevent the environmental organization.  (Photo: pd)

Scientists Protest Greenpeace Patrick Moore (second from left) calls for a speedy approval of golden rice, which wants to prevent the environmental organization. (Photo: pd)

The beta-carotene gives it the yellow color: Golden rice (left) next to non-genetically modified rice. (Picture: zvg)

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It is an unusual scene, which took place today in front of the Greenpeace-quarters in Brussels: For once demonstrated not the Environmental Protection Agency for their concerns, but scientists and activists - against Greenpeace. The action is part of a large-scale campaign throughout Europe. The organizers of the protest want to put the record straight in the "battle of opinions" with Greenpeace on a subject that moves the minds for 14 years: Golden rice.

It is enriched with vitamin A variety that (glows) looks yellow. It was developed by a research team from Switzerland and from Germany in 1999, and would  be ready for the market for years – but unfortunately it is still waiting for approval. The reason: the scientist Ingo Potrykus (ETH Zurich), and Peter Beyer (University of Freiburg) have created golden rice with genetic engineering. However, the inventors emphasize the humanitarian purpose of the food:, Two million people - mostly children die annually or go blind according to the World Health Organization - due to vitamin A deficiency. Half a cup of golden rice per day could prevent these diseases according to the scientists. But it did not come to this yet: Opponents of the GM-food, especially Greenpeace, fight against  any kind of genetic engineering.

 Destroyed test fields

 The current campaign for the Golden Rice is the culmination of a bitter battle between the environmentalists from Greenpeace and a group of scientists and supporters, who have joined forces which the company «Golden Rice Allow Now". Ironically, Patrick Moore, the former co-founder of Greenpeace, is committed to the front line for the approval of the food. "Vitamin A deficiency kills more children worldwide than any other disease. “With the Golden Rice the problem would be so easy to solve”, reassured the Canadian ecologist his commitment towards / Newsnet. With his former companions at Greenpeace, he started to disagree years ago, "because they provide no longer peace, instead they increasingly prefer to focus on green environmental concerns." "Today Greenpeace sees people as enemies of our planet - and adopts anti-scientific positions."

In particular, with the wholesale rejection of genetic engineering, the environmental organization “is guilty of commiting a humanitarian crime": At least for the cultivation of Golden Rice the organization should make an exception in it’s rigorous attitude in order to save human lifes, challenges Moore. "We have a cost effective and sustainable solution to vitamin A deficiency, which may still not be implemented for years.» More: the research is  actively hindered: State test fields in the Philippines were destroyed by 400 activists (not farmers) last summer. Moore and his colleagues suspect Greenpeace behind the action.
Greenpeace campaigns against GM
The environmental group argued that there are already proven strategies against vitamin A deficiency: For example, appropriate preparations could be distributed in poor regions. Even gardens for fruits and vegetables have been proven positive in these regions. Many countries would also add vitamin A to foods like flour and sugar. India and the Philippines, for example, could combine all of these approaches. Genetically engineered rice, however, is "completely untested and its effects on human health are absolutely unknown," says Yves Zenger, spokesman of Greenpeace Switzerland, opposite / Newsnet. In addition, monocultures would entice an even more one-sided diet. «Deficiency and malnutrition are a sign of poverty. In contrast, no genetic engineering helps. It needs the political will to seriously solve the problem and make the funds available - for example, for the distribution of vitamin A preparations. "

Patrick Moore knows these arguments - and does not accept them: "Instead of putting a lot of money into the logistics for distribution of such vitamin A supplements, the Golden rice is already at an affordable price and in a sustainable way." He points out that the seed would be distributed free of charge to farmers in Southeast Asia and Africa. The statement by Greenpeace, the rice had not been tested, makes him angry: "This is simply a lie. It was tested on adults and children in the United States and China. And on fields in Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Philippines it is planted for tests -. It is strange that Greenpeace criticizes the lack of research, but at the same time they promote the destruction of the test fields, thus throwing back research considerably. It is fact that the environmentalists  recognize the problem, but at the same time raise funds for the prevention of it’s solution, “this is immoral," as Moore states enervated.

Resistance, especially in Europe

And the scientists supporting Moore go even further and are convinced: With it’s political influence of Greenpeace in Europe, the organization prevents the establishment of the Golden Rice. The resistance concentrates on the old European continent and is still strong, despite the following facts: "In 28 industrialized countries, genetically modified foods are grown already. People in Europe by retarding genetic engineering, do not want to see how residents of urban slums die in distant lands in vitamin A deficiency. "

That is why the organization  (with all campaign details) want to inform Europeans during two weeks about the background of the Golden Rice. Behind the current campaign is a Swiss: Emeritus Professor of Botany and genetic engineering expert Klaus Ammann, he organized actions - press conferences, demonstrations in front of Greenpeace headquarters, panel discussions - in Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bern, Rome, Norwich and London. Next week there is also a stopover in Bern on the program (January 28: 09:30-12:00, Haus der Universität). He is convinced that this group so successful from scientists to bring about a change in thinking. "I have been fighting for 14 years for more science in the debate about golden rice."

( / usenet)

Created: 23/01/2014, 21:01 clock


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