Commentary: Blame anti-GMO groups for deaths

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The Philippines is the latest front of competition between those supporting Golden Rice and those against allowing it to be grown or being used to supplement diets of developing countries’ populations. Golden Rice is high in Vitamin A, which can help children and adults avoid blindness or even death associated with Vitamin A deficiency (VAD).

Golden Rice is a genetically modified rice; therefore, those against GMOs don’t care how many children go blind or die even when eating this rice is a simple counter to VAD. Golden Rice high in Vitamin A was developed in 2000, and it has been an uphill battle for it to be accepted as a partial replacement for white rice.

Its yellow color identifies it instantly. Those against Golden Rice and GMOs aren’t playing fair. It doesn’t take much to scare the uneducated about Golden Rice because it obviously is quite different as shown by the color.

The Philippines Department of Agriculture reportedly will begin a final study to determine whether to make Golden Rice available for production and marketing. But those anti-GMO activists are pushing the Department of Agriculture to halt any further research on the rice.

Greenpeace and other outside activist organizations are spreading their typical misconceptions that turn into full lies when spread by word of mouth.

Protest events have occurred including an event in front of the main office of the Department of Ag handing out organically farmed vegetables with some beta-carotene (Vitamine A) content.

The main mistruths are that studies have revealed dangers in producing and consuming GM crops and eating GMO’s can cause new allergies in people. Then there is the big claim that GMO consumption has not been “tested” on humans.

Also the groups claim there is no doubt that GMO Golden Rice will contaminate regular white rice grown in the country so that the Philippine people will be unable to avoid eating GMO rice in the future.

Misconceptions being spread widely are keeping one country after the other from breaking through to help their people and promote the consumption of Golden Rice. Even in those few situations where Golden Rice has been available, people have been scared to eat it.

The horror is that VAD is responsible for 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness and up to 2 million deaths each year worldwide, according to the Golden Rice Project. A simple solution is at hand but not being allowed because of the dark hearts of some activists. 

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Kristof Nordin    
Malawi, Africa  |  April, 04, 2014 at 08:11 AM

Here in Malawi, Africa we face high levels of nutritional deficiencies including Vitamin A and iron. We also have a nutritional 'stunting' rate which affects 47% of the nation's children under the age of 5. These problems, however, have nothing to do with anti-GMO groups, but rather with an incessant push towards the monocropped production of maize (corn). Despite the potential for year-round and seasonal production of nutritious food crops, many local farmers have been encouraged to sacrifice diversity in favor of a once-a-year harvest of maize. Despite several consecutive years of surplus maize harvests, our malnutrition rates have remained steady. There are literally hundreds of local foods that farmers and families could be utilizing to eliminate nutritional deficiencies, but instead we find the nation's fields sitting in a state of 'food deserts' for 11 months out of the year. Now, as the limited nutritional nature of monocropped agriculture is taking its toll, we find people turning to genetic engineering to try to adapt the world's plants and animals to very unhealthy and chemical-based systems of production. There is no need, whatsoever, to put a nutrient like Vitamin A into a plant in which it does not naturally occur. Just grow and eat nutritious foods! As we move further and further away from natural solutions, we find nations, like Malawi, setting up expensive--often donor funded--programs to fortify unhealthy foods like cooking oil and sugar with Vitamin A. This is not a sustainable or a healthy approach to good nutrition. Solutions exist, but we need to stop promoting the idea that all the world's nutrition should come from a limited handful of artificially engineered crops.

Stacia Nordin    
Malawi  |  April, 05, 2014 at 06:19 AM

Dear Rich, Vitamin A is only one of 50+ nutrients we require and these nutrients work together, not in silos. Adding Vitamin A to starches is not going to solve the problem with under-nutrition. Growing and eating less starch and instead growing and eating foods from all the food groups will provide us with all the proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water that we need. The following article from the Ecologist reinforce a similar message for nutrients working together: GOLDEN RICE: A COMPLEX TANGLE OF UNANSWERED QUESTIONS The Ecologist, by Clare Westwood, March 11, 2014 Advocates of Golden Rice - a GMO rice that produces Vitamin A - present the debate over its use a clear moral choice with only one possible conclusion. But as Clare Westwood writes, the reality is very different. Excerpt: The bioavailability of GR's Vitamin A was examined in a study published in June 2009. It found that in healthy adults GR was indeed an effective source of Vitamin A. However the experiment did not include children or malnourished individuals - those who are mainly intended to benefit from the Golden Rice. The test meals containing the GR were all high in fat. Beta-carotene is highly fat soluble, and it is known that eating carotene-rich foods in conjunction with fat enhances its dietary availability. So one has to ask - why was so much butter and oil included, if not to produce the desired result? And why were trials not done of Golden Rice eaten in a low fat diet? Or on children and malnourished people - those that Golden Rice is meant to benefit?

Stacia Nordin    
Malawi  |  April, 05, 2014 at 06:27 AM

Furthermore, Michael Krawinkel in a follow-up letter to AJCN ( re: Tang G, Qin J, Dolnikowski GG, Russell RM, Grusak MA. Golden Rice is an effective source of vitamin A. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89:1776–83. EXCERPTS: " ... why the authors did not use a dietary approach more similar to the diets of the individuals who were suggested to benefit from the consumption of this β-carotene-containing rice. "One of the arguments used for advertising Golden Rice is that the people at risk of vitamin A deficiency have such poor diets that other sources of β-carotene and vitamin A are not accessible to them. "Because diet definitely has an effect on the bioavailability of β-carotene from any β-carotene-containing food, the choice for a study diet that included meat, oil, and nuts, which does not represent a poor diet, is of concern. "Therefore, the results of the study do not much help us in preventing vitamin A deficiency in populations at risk."

No GMO!    
April, 05, 2014 at 10:05 PM

Just so you have access to the truth... Golden Rice Myths Dr Michael Hansen debunks some of the many myths... There has been a lot of misinformation and just plain propaganda about Golden Rice (GR) put out recently. It is stunning that so many are talking about this topic without even a basic understanding of the real issues. Bottom line, there are clear unanswered questions on basic efficacy and safety of GR. Here are some of the basic issues. First, both GR 1 and GR 2 (released in 2005) are Japonica rices. For those that don’t know, there are basically two subspecies of Oryza sativa – the sticky, short-grained Japonica, and the non-sticky long-grained Indica. It’s the Indica varieties that are grown submerged in paddies, while the Japonica is a dryland rice. The bottom line is that in the areas where people are starving/have Vit A deficiency — India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Philippines — the vast majority of the population eats Indica rices, not Japonica. As pointed out in the 2008 article in Science, “there’s a long way to go. . . Both the original Golden Rice, now called GR1, and GR2 were created with Japonica cultivars that are the scientist’s favorites but fare poorly in Asian fields. Researchers are now backcrossing seven GR1 and GR2 lines with the long-grained, nonsticky Indica varieties popular among Asia’s farmers” (see: Lots more at the link below, ran out of room..

No GMO!    
April, 05, 2014 at 10:08 PM

link disappeared so here it is

No GMO!    
April, 05, 2014 at 10:10 PM

and more Yet the case for Golden Rice is pure hype. For Golden Rice is not particularly rich in carotene and in any case, rice is not, and never will be, the best way to deliver it. "Golden rice is a Trojan horse for pushing through GE-friendly biosafety regulations under the guise of humanitarian aid. Once in place, these regulations open the door for the biotech industry to bring in commercial, patented GE crops; USAID and Monsanto accomplished exactly this in Kenya with their sweet potato project." Source:

CT  |  April, 06, 2014 at 07:57 AM

Instead of the snark against people who won't blindly accept your proclamations about how wonderful GMOs are, why don't you provide some actual proof that their concerns are unfounded? There has not been sufficient independent testing of GM product for anyone to make any kind of determination, good or bad. Because we don't have sufficient data, we should sequester the GM product and trials that are out there and label them.

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