This Editorial covers an event in The Philippines. On 8 August 2013, the Philippine Department of Agriculture was conducting a meeting covering new types of GM (genetically-modified) rice. Their event was interrupted by anti-GMO (genetically-modified organism) protesters. Ostensibly a group of local farmers, it later came out that the protesters had actually been brought from other areas to take part and overrun the conference.
The editorial goes on to describe how the scientific community has taken issue with these kinds of destructive protests, naming a specific effort by Greenpeace as the worst. Greenpeace, among other NGOs (non-governmental organizations), were launching a focused attack on the use of “Golden Rice”, a specific GM version of rice that produces beta-carotene, which leads to the development of vitamin A. Lack of vitamin A can cause blindness, and also shuts down the immune system. The authors describe it as, “a disease of poverty and poor diet, responsible for 1.9 to 2.8 million preventable deaths annually, mostly of children under 5 years old and women.”
Because rice is such a staple crop for much of the planet, it is important that all varieties are able to produce the vital beta-carotene. Researchers spent over 25 years working on a solution, and there is currently a commercially-viable product. However, due to “fears of ‘potential’ hazards,” the rice hasn’t made it to market in places like The Philippines.
This is one of those cases where it seems like GM-agriculture really does seem like a good way to go. It helps people, and new crops can carry vitamins and chemicals our body needs. And in areas where certain crops won’t grow, other GM-crops might. The editorial makes mention of how fears of new technology almost always wane over time, but in the case of GMOs, the controversy is still quite hot.