Commentary: Misinformation Central
But that cannot be used as a criticism of Monsanto’s earnings or its business strategy. General Motors, for example, isn’t expected to solve the challenges related our domestic gasoline supply; that’s not what they do. If the company profits from manufacturing a fuel-efficient car, well, that’s a win-win. Even in that case, though, it would still be unfair to complain about its profitability or insist that GM should be doing even more to solve the world’s energy problems.
Likewise, it isn’t Monsanto’s “mission” to eliminate world hunger. Nor can the company be legitimately faulted for pursuing product developments that make them money, rather than ones that address food security or environmental protection.
The bottom line is that neither drought resistance nor increased productivity are likely to be to priorities for the Monsantos or Syngentas of the world. To be profitable, such varieties must be targeted to highly productive farming regions, not places with marginal farm productivity and high poverty rates.
› Golden rice. But to be sure, one genetically engineered crop—golden rice—was developed to deliver health and environmental benefits. As the Golden Rice Institute recently noted about its project to infuse vitamin A into rice grains, “The absence of a beta-carotene in rice grains manifests itself in a marked incidence of blindness, susceptibility to disease and even premature death among small children.”
The institute’s research estimates that as many as 2.5 million children could be saved each year if biofortified rice containing vitamin A, essential for proper functioning of the immune system, was widely available.
At this point, the delay in introducing a commercial variety of golden rice lies more with the labyrinth of governmental regulations (mostly aimed at ensuring safety) that add years of time and multi-millions in costs to the approval process.
But Marion Nestle, professor of food and nutrition at New York University, slammed golden rice as “a poster child for public relations for the GMO industry,” complaining that fruits and vegetables that are easily grown in the tropical areas would provide plenty of beta carotene (the precursor to vitamin A), not to mention that an adequate diet is necessary for converting beta carotene into vitamin A for absorption by the body.
What she didn’t say, however, is that no matter how many fruits and vegetables might be “available” to the billions of people across tropical Africa, and Asia, those populations will continue to eat rice as a dietary staple, much as North and South Americans include wheat and corn as a staple, despite the availability of a host of alternatives.