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Petition by Channa Prakash
On 8 Aug 2013, vandals destroyed a Philippine government field trial of Golden Rice (GR).
As the world’s population continues its increase, sustainable food production is becoming increasingly challenging. More food must be produced in the next 50 years than has been produced since the invention of agriculture. GM crops are a critical resource in accelerating increases in crop productivity in general, as well as in enhancing their nutritional value to treat malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies. In that context, Golden Rice is a critical resource in fighting the devastating consequences of widespread vitamin A deficiency in developing nations.
Research on Golden Rice at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is part of their humanitarian work to reduce vitamin A deficiency, a serious condition of malnutrition mostly affecting women and children by causing sickness and leading, in many cases, to blindness and premature death of millions each year. According to IRRI, vitamin A deficiency affects more than 15% of children aged 6 months to 5 years and subclinical vitamin A deficiency affects 10% of pregnant women in the Philippines. Golden Rice, when it becomes freely available to farmers as planned, can substantially contribute to the alleviation of this important aspect of malnutrition.
Since their introduction into commercial production over 17 years ago, GM crops have become the most rapidly adopted agricultural technology in the history of mankind, precisely because they provide large benefits to consumers, farmers and the environment. These crops have an exemplary safety record, making them the safest agricultural technology ever deployed. They have already helped to ameliorate many of the kinds of damage caused by traditional agriculture and reduce contamination of corn with fungal toxins. Not a single one of the many claims of negative health or environmental effects uniquely made against GM crops has withstood scientific scrutiny.
Regulatory systems around the world mandate the thorough testing of new GM crops to ensure that there are no unintended, harmful effects either from their cultivation or their consumption. These are the kinds of controlled tests that IRRI and the Philippine Department of Agriculture are conducting with Golden Rice. A few days ago, a field test was maliciously destroyed.
New technologies often evoke fears that they are dangerous. Destroying a new technology based on such fears without testing its safety and efficacy can deprive humanity of a very valuable and much-needed advance. In this case, many more millions will needlessly suffer blindness and death because Golden Rice was not available to them. No group, regardless of its intentions, has the right to condemn a technology without evidence. It is an unconscionable criminal act to destroy a field trial conducted in accordance to international safety norms.
We the undersigned members of the global scientific community condemn the recent destruction of a Philippine Department of Agriculture’s Golden Rice trial plot in Pili, Camarines Sur organized by Peasant Movement of the Philippines and SIKWAL-GMO. We equally condemn the use of rumors and misinformation to raise unwarranted fears in vulnerable sectors of the population and to incite anyone to acts of destruction.
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