If the authors of the Change.org petition condemning the destruction of Golden Rice field trials intended for the outrage to go viral, they have succeeded. As this blog is posted, 5,239 people have signed onto the petition – most from the scientific community and added their comments urging that scientific advances not be impeded by uninformed activists.
In addition, the furor in the media arena and blogosphere continues.
Mark Lynas, UK-based environmentalist and former anti-GMO activist wrote “The True Story About Who Destroyed a Genetically Modified Rice Crop” for Slate magazine.
“The simple question now is this: If anti-GMO campaigners do manage to delay the launch of golden rice, how many more children will die? If all goes as planned-and if the activists stop trying to block the project-the life-saving rice could be made available within as little as two years in the Philippines, and soon after in Bangladesh and Indonesia,” writes Lynas.
“Additional deaths resulting from further delay of the launch of golden rice will not be random; they will be largely restricted to children younger than 5-some of the poorest and most vulnerable young people in the world. The future success of the anti-GMO movement will be written on the gravestones of these children, who will die painfully but out of sight in remote poverty-stricken communities across South and East Asia.”
Science writer Andrew Revkin wrote for the New York Times, “From Lynas to Pollan, Agreement that Golden Rice Trials Should Proceed.”
“I’ve been a fan of Greenpeace’s creative, but legal, work to press big companies over destructive forest practices. I called it ‘activism at its best’ last year,” admits Revkin. “But the group’s distorted and incendiary rhetoric on this issue, mashing up anti-corporate emotion with baseless or distorted arguments about this rice strain, is activism at its worst.”
Revkin’s piece was especially noteworthy in that it garnered a response from fellow journalist Michael Pollan, who frequently criticizes GMO technology in his articles. On this issue, however, Pollan concedes – just a little, but it is progress.
“I’m prepared to eat my words if it really saves millions of lives,” says Pollan. “I certainly think the research and testing should go forward.”
Emily Willingham wrote for Forbes “Science And GMOs Are Not The Bad Guys Here.”
“Science in scare quotes isn’t just one way of describing the world around us,” writes Willingham. “It is the ultimate way to understand it, and it gives us the information we need to change it for the better.”
In a related Forbes commentary, David Kroll writes “Is It Time For Scientist Activism Against GMO Fear-Mongering?”
“Many arguments I read against GMO foods are focused on disdain for the business practices of large agribusinesses,” writes Kroll. “In fact, those defending the safety and utility of GMO foods are often tarred with the lazy and intellectually offensive claim that they must somehow be pawns of industry. I’ve argued that one can still dislike business practices while still accepting the safety of GMO foods.”
Back to the Change.org petition that has gained a dozen supporters in the hour that I have been writing this blog: The comments are numerous and worth reading. You can read many at the bottom of the petition page; Even more are posted in PDF format online here. Here is just a sampling:
“I had hoped that destroying science had gone out with the Dark Ages – apparently not. But it is still wrong.”
– Johnathan Napier (Harpenden, UK)
“Genetic engineering has the potential to do a lot of good in the world. Increased nutrition, higher yields, reduced inputs… the only thing stopping us is activists who just refuse to consider the science.”
– Anastasia Bodnar (Rockville, MD)
“The destruction of this field is the worst kind of misanthropy.” – Howard Worf (France)
“Destroying scientific trial plots is crime. It is just like destroying the future development of agriculture.” –Dr. Barkat (Soomro Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan)
“I learned about Golden Rice in my botany and horticulture undergraduate classes; I am greatly disturbed that the development of an innovation which can end so much needless suffering in children has been thoughtlessly set back by misinformed people.” -Kate Schommer (Madison, WI)
“670,000 children under the age of five die from vitamin A deficiency. They are doing something about it. What are you doing?!” – Rosalind Mutiga (Nairobi, Kenya)
“Destroying field trials is undemocratic and against pro-poor innovation.”
– Matty Demont (Los Baños, Philippines)
“People who put ideology ahead of science are dangerous.” – Matt Bush (Melbourne, Australia)
“We must base decisions on proven science vs junk-science and fear-mongering.” -Ron Rabe (Alexander, Canada)
“Because I believe that people everywhere deserve the food security and good nutrition that my family is blessed to take for granted. This is terrorism & should be called out as such.” – Melissa Feagins (Kingsport, TN)