Commentary: GM crop destruction globally criticized

Destroying a field trial of genetically modified rice in the Philippines may be the anti-GM crowd's undoing. Plant scientists, academics and other crop biotechnology supporters all over the world have condemned the attack, which took place Aug. 8 in a field of Golden Rice.

Golden Rice is genetically altered to produce vitamin A and is considered a humanitarian outlet for crop biotechnology to help underdeveloped countries fight vitamin A deficiency.

After many spoke out against the destruction of the field, Channapatna Prakash of Tuskegee University in Alabama, started an online petition to show lawmakers  and policy makers the importance of continuing plant research into genetically modified crops. He aims to collect 5,000 signatures. As of Aug. 18, he had collected 3,000 signatures already.

In addition, Prakash also submitted an open letter stressing the need for biotech research and condemned the recent attack.

"Research on Golden Rice is a critical resource in fighting the devastating consequences of widespread vitamin A deficiency in developing nations, he wrote.

"Not a single one of the many claims of negative health or environmental effects uniquely made against GM crops has withstood scientific scrutiny.

"It is an unconscionable criminal act to destroy a field trial conducted in accordance to international safety norms.

People signing the petition included a University of Canberra toxicology expert, former anti-GM activist Mark Lynas, a University of Georgia crop science professor, and others. In an article in New Scientist, even Greenpeace described the Golden Rice vandalism as "stupid.

Although Greenpeace's Philippines based program manager said not enough safety testing was don on any GM crops, she did condemn the activists who destroyed the Golden Rice.

The problem with groups and individuals who destroy research plots is that it shows their unwillingness to let science gain the answers we all want about these GM crops. Simply destroying crops leaves no recourse. The data that could be collected is gone. All of the time and care scientists spent developing the trials and caring for the plants and the research that was done to develop the Golden Rice is dismissed by the actions of a few people when they choose to destroy field trials.

In the end all us are failed by the actions of a few. If science didn't test hypotheses and gather evidence, we wouldn't be able to enjoy many of the advantages we take for granted in the First World, such as antibiotics, clean water, abundant food, and telecommunications, etc.

But it seems with this recent attack, the world's scientists, academics and biotech supporters are shouting, "enough! It's good to see these folks doing something to gain awareness for research and to show that destroying crops is criminal. Open dialogue is much more important with biotechnology now more than ever. Let's not shut down the discussion.

To sign the petition, click here.