The campaign for genetically modified rice is at the crossroads
A critical look at Golden Rice after nearly 10 years of development
Commissioned by foodwatch in Germany
A preliminary stocktaking
What began in 1999 with a surprising success in technology has nowforced the hand of both advocates and critics of agricultural genetechnology. Critics are aware of the drastic consequences of vitamin A deficiency for many people. They face the reproach that their criticism of the development of Golden Rice has led to delays and that they therefore share the responsibility for the fate of humans affected by VAD. Advocates have thus turned the introduction of GM rice rather into a test of conscience. But a closer look at the situation reveals that this argument has in the meantime turned back on itself.
Golden Rice was supposed to solve all problems at once - find acceptance for GM food, solve a real problem, simplify approval procedures, and muzzle opponents. Under the pressure of self-created expectations, the project seems to have partially slipped out of its managers' hands. Plans to conduct trials with schoolchildren in China at the present moment in the project's development are scientifically and ethically questionable and should lead to scientists and financiers fundamentally rethinking the whole project. If some kind of success is being sought in such a rush, the project seems to have far less to do with concern about humans affected by VAD than about implementing a certain technology.
If recipes for Golden Rice are posted on the Internet without at least some information being provided on how much carotene is in the rice after four weeks of storage and 20 minutes of cooking, then the projec tmust face the suspicion that it is not about pursuing science to solve the problem of hunger but about making claims it cannot meet. If the project is to continue, scientists and financiers are best advised to make all data and information on its research absolutely transparent. Since the product is allegedly not being seen through for commercial interests, there is no reason to keep secrets. In addition, a broader and more participatory discussion process should be introduced in those regions of the world for which this product is intended, a debate in which critics and independent experts speak and in which the effort invested and the yield, risks and sustainability of the project are investigated from the bottom up. The managers of the project should take to heart the fact that, according to Science, specialists from WHO attribute more success to distributing vitamin tablets, fortifying normal food with vitamin A, and teaching people how to cultivate carrots and certain green vegetables, than to using gene technology. (Enserink 2008.)
Etiquetas: GMrice, Rice