Golden Rice - Science and Skepticism: Who can we trust?



Golden Rice - Science and Skepticism: Who can we trust?

In a article that came out on August 26, contributor Beth Hoffman asks, “Why has feeding the hungry become a self-serving competition for lab funding when viable solutions to the problem (and the organizations to carry them out) are available now?”1 Whether or not you believe that genetic modification of foods is good or bad, a basic underlying issue raised within the article requires addressing. Do we, as human beings, have reason to trust what current scientific findings are telling us? article by national correspondent Amy Harmon describes how, just last month, protestors destroyed a Philippine rice field containing Golden Rice, a controversial strain that is bright yellow due to the scientific endowment of corn and bacterium genes. The reason for this particular genetic tampering? To provide a new source of vitamin A to people both in the Philippines, where most households get most of their calories from rice, and eventually in many other places in a world where rice is eaten every day by half the population.

Lack of the vital nutrient causes blindness in a quarter-million to a half-million children each year. It affects millions of people in Asia and Africa and so weakens the immune system that some two million die each year of diseases they would otherwise survive.2 “The concerns voiced by the participants in the Aug. 8 act of vandalism — that Golden Rice could pose unforeseen risks to human health and the environment, that it would ultimately profit big agrochemical companies — are a familiar refrain in the long-running controversy over the merits of genetically engineered crops.”3 So, why can’t we use age-old methods to help people in developing countries, not to mention those not getting enough to eat in the United States, get the nutrition they need? Why can’t we teach them to grow corn instead of injecting corn genes into rice? According to Gerard Barry, the leader of the Golden Rice Project, “critics who suggest encouraging poor families to simply eat fruits and vegetables that contain beta carotene disregard the expense and logistical difficulties that would thwart such efforts.”4 However, while the Golden Rice Project is being sponsored by the nonprofit International Rice Research Institute, the fact remains that Mr. Barry is a former senior scientist and executive for Monsanto, the agricultural behemoth that has recently come under so much scrutiny for its GMO seeds and pesticides. With GMO pesticides being linked to the destruction of the bee population, cancer, autism, and ADHD, it’s hard to know who to trust where GMO “facts” are concerned. 2,3,4

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