Is Greenpeace completely nuts?

GoldenRiceYou probably have read about Greenpeace members being arrested for piracy while attempting to board a Russian oil platform. While they claim they just wanted to string a banner across the platform, they surely must have known how the Russians would respond. And displaying a banner in the Arctic ocean seems ridiculous on the face of it.

According to the Guardian, the Greenpeace protesters and their ship were seized and diverted to Murmansk where they were charged with piracy. Did the Russians overreact? Probably. Did the Greenpeace activists accomplish anything? Probably not, except for a few news stories. Greenpeace has a history of taking chances by taking extravagant attention-getting actions, and hoping they can get away with them. This time it didn’t work.

But, while their cause of stopping Arctic oil drilling may be perceived as worthwhile, this is hardly the case in some of Greenpeace’s other shameful activities.

On August 8th, Greenpeace activists descended on a test plot of Golden Rice in the Philippines and ripped up the entire bed of seedlings. Golden Rice was developed by Prof Ingo Potrykus  at the ETH, Zurich and Prof Peter Beyer at the University of Freiburg to provide Vitamin A to poor third world countries, where it can prevent blindness and save children’s lives by remedying a severe Vitamin A deficiency. A paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that Golden Rice is an effective source of Vitamin A.

This senseless vandalism has been condemned by conservatives like, liberal papers like the New York Times. A consortium of over 6200 scientists has signed a petition condemning this vandalism.

While Greenpeace spouts nonsense about Golden Rice being “marketed by the biotech industry,” this is utterly untrue. Golden Rice was developed by a consortium of academics and is to be given away free. Farmers are also free to save seeds. Greenpeace also suggests that they prefer to see the Vitamin A deficiency solved by a more balanced diet, ignoring the unavailability of such diets in the poor countries where Golden Rice is to be provided.

Golden Rice was developed by making beta-carotene available in the rice kernel (endosperm). It is already available in the plant leaves, so turning on this gene in the endosperm is a simple change.  In the current version, a single bowl of Golden Rice can provide 60% of the recommended daily Vitamin A requirement.

Syngenta scientists to develop this final version of Golden Rice, but will not sell or profit from Golden Rice. It does, however, have the rights to use this technology. Syngenta believes that the seeds are entirely safe. Carotenoids are not dangerous by any definition: they are widely available in the environment and in the human diet (especially in green vegetables). There is no reasonable argument that would support any public health, human toxicological or any other adverse affect in respect of carotenoids. Indeed, carotenoids are more generally associated with imparting important health benefits.

Founding Greenpeace member Patrick Moore has taken a stand against Greenpeace’s foolishness and left Greenpeace to form a new activist group. He claims they have “lost their moral compass.”

In addition, Greenpeace has taken a stand against chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides (like DDT), but failing to understand basic chemistry, it has taken a stand against elemental chlorine even as it is used for drinking water purification!

In the past, Filipino Greenpeace activists have been charged with ripping up a version of the local eggplant Talong, which was developed to resist the fruit and stem borer using Bt.

And in a related incident of ecoterrorism, hundreds of papaya trees modified to resist the papaya ringspot virus were ripped up in Hawaii in September. The idea that anti-science activists have the right to destroy crops because of their ill-informed views is certainly Greenpeace inspired if not organized.

There are many more responsible environmental organizations that deserve your  support, but Greenpeace does not.

Originally published on October 9, 2013


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