NGOs oppose Greenpeace co-founder's campaign to promote `golden rice'

Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore is bringing his `Allow Golden Rice Campaign', launched in the Philippines on 6 March and in Bangladesh on Wednesday, to India now.

Moore is launching a country-wide campaign in India on 16 March to allow the ''golden rice'' that claims to help tackle Vitamin A deficiency.

The campaign, however, faces opposition from a group of 20 non-governmental organisations across the world under the banner of ''Stop Golden Rice Alliance''.

The NGOs allege that Moore is in league with the GM food industry and that the campaign for launching the Vitamin A-enriched golden rice is a covert attempt to win wider approval for genetically modified food. ''It (golden rice) will not solve the problems of malnutrition,'' the alliance said in a statement.

According to the Alliance, Vitamin A deficiency, like other problems of malnutrition and hunger, is not caused by the lack of the vitamin in foodgrains, but by people's inability to achieve a balanced diet.

In a statement in Dhaka on Wednesday, Moore said, ''Golden rice is the obvious cure, but because it was created with genetic science, Greenpeace and the anti-GMO movement fervently oppose it. No country has approved it for cultivation.

''If golden rice was a cure for a disease like malaria, cancer, or ebola it would have been approved years ago,'' said Moore, who quit Greenpeace in 1986 saying the organisation did not care about people and it was more worried about politics than science.

According to Moore, golden rice has been proven to deliver Vitamin A to both adults and children and it could save millions of lives.

The Alliance said that the Green Revolution, with a bias towards monocultures of staple crops, has led to unbalanced patterns of food production around the world.

''As the UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organisation have stated, variety and diversifying food is the key to solving vitamin deficiency; in countries where people eat more than 200 gm of vegetables per day, Vitamin A deficiency is not a major problem,'' it said.

Issues underlying Vitamin A deficiency can never be addressed by promoting genetically-modified golden rice, the Alliance said, adding that the increased complexity of the gene constructs of golden rice makes it more hazardous than the existing genetically modified plants.

''With inexpensive Vitamin A available in abundance from various natural sources, produced by small-scale and backyard producers, it is a mistake to turn blindly to golden rice, a crop that the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) itself admits that it has not yet determined if it can actually improve the Vitamin A intake,'' said the Alliance.