Berlin Press Release Jan 2015

(Google translated from German newspaper edition, January 15, 2014)

Campaigning against Greenpeace – the power struggle for the Golden Rice

15/01/2014  · Bioengineers have developed the Golden Rice 14 years ago, and it could save lives. But his enemies are powerful. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, is now fighting against the “moral abyss” of his ex-companions.


Golden rice” beside white rice

Moved again.

Golden rice is not admitted this year, either in the Philippines or in India or Bangladesh. 2016 is the new – temporary – date.The yellow, provitamin A-rich rice, which had been created in 1999 by the German-Swiss group led by Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer with genetic engineering was market-ready in 2002, but still cannot fulfill its humanitarian purposel. Three more years, which are expected to figures from the World Health Organisation, three-quarters of a million more young children who go blind due to vitamin A deficiency, infections such as measles are increasingly delivered and suffer the irreversible developmental disorders. However, the persons concerned are not just children. Two million people, mainly in countries where rice is the staple food, die or go blind each year because they take too little vitamin A.

Half a cup of golden rice a day, already 40 to 60 grams is all that is needed to prevent disease. The opposition to the genetic engineering of rice on the other hand makes sure that does not happen. Out of concern the Golden Rice could become a biopolitical gateway – the opponents speak of the “Trojan horse” of the biotech industry and fear it could mean a new GM-friendly culture. “It is a bitter irony that the blockade against the lifesaving golden rice is even more successful than against any genetically modified corn or against transgenic cotton,” says Patrick Moore. The Canadian ecologist, author and entrepreneur co-founded the environmental organization Greenpeace in the early seventies. Moore’s signature is on the founding documents of Greenpeace Germany in Hamburg. But this week he has not come to Berlin and Hamburg to pay a courtesy visit, but to take the fight to Greenpeace. Moore wants to break the ideological and political power Greenpeace holds against the golden rice.

Moral abysses

Of the $300 million in donations collected by the environmental group, flowed a considerable part in the “disinformation campaign that caused so much suffering.” To answer this the Greenpeace dropout founded with his family and his brother Michael, a musician and webmaster, the “Allow Golden Rice Society”. This week the two together with the Swiss botanist and genetic engineering expert Klaus Ammann will give a lecture at Berlin’s Humboldt University Forum and then go to the Greenpeace headquarters in Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rome and London.

“We take our campaign to fight,” says Moore. “It would be too much to ask to turn the attitude of Greenpeace about genetic engineering, but at least for Golden Rice, they should make an exception for humanitarian reasons.”

The new Pro-GM rice coalition, which is also home to science friendly organizations, has only small funding. Six thousand euros is the cost of the anti-Greenpeace action.  Moore and his supporters do not have corporate sponsorship. The Canadian Ex-head of Greenpeace acknowledges that the powerlessness of scientists who have been fighting for years for GM rice has to do with the destitution and lack of influence in their respective countries. Bill Gates, who made a speech a few days ago to further promote the agro-biotechnology by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, made sure that the information required by the Philippine government agency – and attacked by activists – Field trials with could be made in the locally grown Golden Rice varieties. Many expected a quick approval. But now additional feeding studies and field tests are requested.

Political blockade

Justus Wesseler from the Technical University of Munich-Weihenstephan in Freising, together with the Californian agronomist David Zilberman have studied the economic cost of the Golden Rice opposition in India. India was studied because of its population growth and the importance of its agriculture. It has always been considered one of the countries with the largest humanitarian potential for the GM rice. The political deadlock, as calculated Wesseler has cost solely by the direct healthcare costs in ten years, already more than 1.4 million years of life.The “political-economic power” lobby groups with questionable science have blocked the approval process. The two agricultural economists estimate the cost annually to nearly 200 million euros.  To naked humanity that will make such calculations significantly, it is no longer a long time.

© Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung GmbH 2014

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