Ag Policy Blog

Nobel Laureates: Back off GMO Attacks

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Just when you think the debate about the safety of GMOs could not get more intense, along comes a group of 110 Nobel Laureates calling on Greenpeace this week to back off its anti-GMO pursuits for the sake of Golden Rice needed to feed the world’s poor.

Much of the national news focused on Congress racing the clock to pass legislation to pre-empt Vermont’s GMO labeling law that takes effect Friday. Congress may yet act on legislation in the coming weeks so as to avoid fears the Vermont law could spread nationally at some point.

As has been the case when it comes to the national dialogue on climate change - a back and forth from both sides as to where a certain number of scientists stand either way on the issue - somewhat buried in the news is a group of Nobel Laureates calling on the environmental group to back off GMOs for the sake of the hungry, http://bit.ly/….

In a letter to Greenpeace, the United Nations and “governments around the world,” the scientists point to the need for advanced food technology to keep up with an expected doubling of demand for food, feed and fiber by 2050.

“The United Nations Food and Agriculture Program has noted that global production of food, feed and fiber will need approximately to double by 2050 to meet the demands of a growing global population,” the letter states.

“Organizations opposed to modern plant breeding, with Greenpeace at their lead, have repeatedly denied these facts and opposed biotechnological innovations in agriculture. They have misrepresented their risks, benefits, and impacts, and supported the criminal destruction of approved field trials and research projects.

“We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against GMOs in general and Golden Rice in particular.

“Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production. There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.”

The Nobel Laureates in particular pointed to the opposition to Golden Rice as troublesome.

They say Golden Rice has the potential to “reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia.”

According to the World Health Organization an estimated 250 million people suffer from VAD. That includes about 40% of children under 5 in the developing world.

“Based on UNICEF statistics, a total of one to two million preventable deaths occur annually as a result of VAD, because it compromises the immune system, putting babies and children at great risk,” the letter said. “VAD itself is the leading cause of childhood blindness globally affecting 250,000 to 500,000 children each year. Half die within 12 months of losing their eyesight.

“WE CALL UPON GREENPEACE to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general;

“WE CALL UPON GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD to reject Greenpeace's campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general; and to do everything in their power to oppose Greenpeace's actions and accelerate the access of farmers to all the tools of modern biology, especially seeds improved through biotechnology. Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped.

“How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a ‘crime against humanity?’”

In May, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, released a report that concluded there is little evidence GMO crops have harmed the environment or lead to health problems. That same report cautioned, however, that the jury is still out on GMO’s overall safety, http://bit.ly/….

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