According to the Washington Post, more than 100 Nobel Laureates have signed a letter urging Greenpeace to change its stand opposing Genetically Modified organisms, particularly Golden Rice. Steve Savage has an article in Forbes describing the issue in detail. You can read the Nobel Laureates letter here.
Golden Rice was developed by a consortium of scientists (starting with Prof Ingo Potrykus at the ETH, Zurich and Prof Peter Beyer at the University of Freiburg) to provide rice enriched with Vitamin A, to prevent childhood blindness and death in African countries. It was not developed by any biotech company, although Syngenta contributed some advice and several companies waived their patent rights. The rice is to be given away to third world farmers, so there is no profit motive at all, and farmers are free to replant the rice each year.
Developing Golden Rice that has a significant amount of beta-carotene, the Vitamin A precursor has proved to be a technical challenge that took longer than expected. However, significant delays in development were not only technical, but in part because of the unrelenting opposition of Greenpeace, based on no science whatever. Greenpeace has an emotional and ideological opposition to genetic engineering that they are completely unable to explain or justify rationally.
As we noted earlier, Greenpeace has even been behind ripping up test plots in the Philippines, hiring thugs pretending to be concerned farmers. Meanwhile, GMO Pundit Professor David Tribe has analyzed Greenpeace’s policy of “creative confusion,” trying to use confusion to sow fear and doubt about the safety of Golden Rice. And former Greenpeace Director Steven Tindale has denounced the Greenpeace campaign as immoral.
Greenpeace finally responded, sowing more confusion as expected, by citing a highly questionable paper attacking the efficacy of Golden Rice, which never even consulted the development team. Porterfield and Entine discuss this paper and the Greenpeace strategy here.
Greenpeace’s position is completely unscientific, because every major scientific organization worldwide has concluded that GM crops pose no more harm than conventional crops. Most recently, the National Academies of Science published a report again concluding the GMO crops pose no harm to human health. Nearly simultaneously, the Royal Society produced a handy Q&A report asserting that there is no evidence of harm from GMO crops. There are, of course, thousands of papers supporting these positions, but Professor Allesandro Nicolia’s paper reviewing 1783 of them is one of the most significant, along with the European Food Safety Association review of a decade of EFSA supported research also coming to the conclusion the GM crops pose no harm.
While Greenpeace may take valuable position on climate change and the environment, they have gone completely off the deep end in opposing a perfectly safe breeding technique, and should be utterly ashamed of the misery they have caused by keeping Golden Rice research from proceeding and keeping it from Africa.