Labor Day Weekend is always good time for reading books and recent events on the other side of the world caused me to remember one of my favorite Tom Clancy novels... A smaller version of that plot, some would say much smaller, played out recently in the Philippines when scientific trials of “Golden Rice” were destroyed by eco-terrorists of a different stripe—those who oppose genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
There was no corporate involvement in this one, just government’s Philippine Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute and other public sector partners working for humanity. The golden GMO in Golden Rice is vitamin A, which is intended to help overcome malnutrition in the third World. All stamped out in the name of food safety, of course...
Thankfully, the world of science and academia is rising up in the support of biotechnology on this one. Months of government-funded research and important data collection was compromised in this one.
Vitamin A deficiencies are not a big concern in the first world where eco-terrorists come from, usually before they move on to graduate school. But in the real world, about two million deaths and a half million cases of irreversible blindness are attributable to lack of Vitamin A. Most who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency are women and children, but who cares if you are feeling righteous about being you, right?
“As a toxicologist with 30 years of experience in food, cosmetics, pesticides and pharmaceuticals, I know the claims about risks of GM food are disingenuous and reflect a political rather than moral position,” writes Dr. Andrew Bartholomaeus, University of Canberra toxicology expert. “The lives of millions are at risk from the mindless actions of ill informed anti-biotech activists.”
“Golden Rice is a breakthrough in bioforication of natural plant products,” Australian National University biology lecturer Christopher Cazzonelli added. “I am a leading plant scientist and work on the regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis in plants. So please stop the destruction of field trials and help save lives.”
Dr Channapatna Prakash of Alabama’s Tuskegee University has launched an online petition urging Filipino politicians and policy makers to continue the vital research. They’ve gone over their goal of reaching 5,000 signatures since the Aug. 8 attack, but the more support they get will help persuade Filipino decision makers to continue the important work to field Golden Rice...