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Science Alert: Experts Respond

Nobels’ challenge Greenpeace over GM – Expert reaction

Posted in Science Alert: Experts Respond on July 1st, 2016.

Over 100 Nobel laureates have signed their name to an open letter challenging Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically modified food.

Golden rice (right) compared to white rice (left). Credit: IRRI.

The signatories urge Greenpeace to “recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against ‘GMOs’ in general and Golden Rice in particular”.

Golden Rice is a beta-carotene enriched form of rice intended to counter vitamin A deficiency.

Greenpeace has campaigned extensively in recent years against the use of Golden Rice as a “poster child for the GE crop industry” saying that it has been “hyped as a high-tech, quick fix solution” to nutritional deficiency in an attempt to increase acceptance of genetically modified crops worldwide.

In May, the US National Academies of Sciences released an extensive report on GM crops finding no substantiated evidence of risks to human health. More information, including New Zealand expert commentary on the report, is available here.

The Nobel laureates’ strongly-worded missive closes by asking: “How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a ‘crime against humanity?'”

The SMC gathered the following reaction from New Zealand experts.

Prof Peter Dearden, Director, Genetics Otago, University of Otago, comments:

“I agree with the authors of the letter. It is time for us to stop believing that all GM is bad and to see that the benefits can far outweigh the risks.

“This is not to say we should have no regulation, but that such regulation should be evidence based and not coloured by the view that GM is necessarily bad.”

Prof Barry Scott, Institute of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University, comments:

“Endorsement of the US National Academies report on GM crops by over 100 Nobel laureates adds considerable weight to the evidence presented in that report and challenges the extreme view of Greenpeace of total opposition to the use of GM crops.

“The new technologies associated with gene and genome editing further challenges the irrationality of such an extreme view given changes can now be made to the genome that are similar to those made by non-GM methods such as radiation treatment.”

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