Pro-GMO campaign exploits Nobel laureates
Banja Luka - 04 July 2016
A new pro-GMO propaganda campaign has been launched in which, in the words of a Washington Post article, “more than 100 Nobel laureates have signed a letter urging Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).The letter asks Greenpeace to cease its efforts to block introduction of a genetically engineered strain of rice that supporters say could reduce Vitamin-A deficiencies causing blindness and death in children in the developing world.”
The letter calls upon Greenpeace “to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general and upon governments to reject Greenpeace’s campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general; and to do everything in their power to oppose Greenpeace’s actions and accelerate the access of farmers to all the tools of modern biology, especially seeds improved through biotechnology. Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped.”
The letter ends with a rhetorical question “How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a ‘crime against humanity’?”
The problem with is that the “emotion and dogma” in this case do not belong to Greenpeace but to those who claim that GM golden rice is ready to deploy and that only anti-GMO activists are holding it back.
Prof Glenn Davis Stone pointed out that GM golden rice still isn’t ready and there’s no evidence that activists are to blame for the delay. In 2014 the body responsible for the rollout of golden rice, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), announced that the rice had given disappointing yields in field trials and needed further research to produce a crop that farmers would be willing to grow. Stone pointed out that GM golden rice has not even been submitted for approval to the regulatory agency, the Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
Indeed, how could it have been submitted to regulators, given that it hasn’t been tested for toxicity, or efficacy in combating vitamin A deficiency in the target malnourished populations?
As Greenpeace responded “Accusations that anyone is blocking genetically engineered ‘golden’ rice are false. ‘Golden’ rice has failed as a solution and isn’t currently available for sale, even after more than 20 years of research. As admitted by the International Rice Research Institute, it has not been proven to actually address Vitamin A deficiency.”
The laureates’ letter relies for its impact entirely on the supposed authority of the signatories. Unfortunately, none appear to have relevant expertise. Philip Stark, professor of statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, revealed on his own analysis of the expertise of the signatories: “1 peace prize, 8 economists, 24 physicists, 33 chemists, 41 doctors… What do they know of agriculture? Done relevant research? Science is supposed to be ‘show me’, not ‘trust me’…”
Devon G. Peña, PhD, an anthropologist at the University of Washington Seattle and an expert in indigenous agriculture, called the laureates’ letter “shameful”. He noted that the signatories were “mostly white men of privilege with little background in risk science, few with a background in toxicology studies, and certainly none with knowledge of the indigenous agroecological alternatives. All of you should be stripped of your Nobels.”
The lack of expertise among the letter signatories contrasts markedly with that of the man whose work the new propaganda campaign seems to be attempting to discredit. Glenn Davis Stone is an expert on crop use and technology change among poor farmers, including rice farmers in the Philippines, the country targeted for the golden rice rollout. He has been following the evidence on the progress of golden rice for years and has published extensively on the topic.
In other words, unlike the laureates, he knows what he’s talking about.
There is a question- who is behind the letter?
The new propaganda campaign is said to have been organized by Sir Richard J. Roberts, a Nobel Laureate in physiology or medicine for the discovery of genetic sequences known as introns, and chief scientific officer for New England, a recognized world leader in the discovery, development and commercialization of recombinant and native enzymes for genomic research.
Given these facts, it is surprising that Roberts claims that he has “no financial interest in GMO research”.
Roberts has been propagandizing for GM food and crops in India, claiming that millions of people in the third world would die of starvation unless GM crops were introduced, as well as highly questionable assertions about the safety of the technology.
Many think it’s unlikely that Roberts alone would be able to mobilize over a hundred Nobel laureates to launch a campaign that gives patently false information about a GM crop that may never see the light of day in real farmers’ fields.
So who’s really behind the laureates’ letter?
Representatives of NGO sector were banned from the press conference where the letter was published, by Jay Byrne, whose long relationship with Monsanto is well known. Byrne is a former Monsanto PR man who now heads the PR firm to the biotech industry, v-Fluence.
The timing of this press event may be significant. Could it be timed to coincide with the run-up to the GMO labelling vote in the US Senate, with the added ‘bonus’ of burying Stone’s inconvenient golden rice critique?
Whatever the answer to that question, the ‘supportprecisionagriculture.org’ campaign is shamelessly exploiting a group of Nobel laureates in a propaganda exercise that is actively misleading the public, the media, and governments.