Thanks to Robert Vint of Genetic Food Alert - see reply to address - for this:
A response from an Indian farmer to Chassy's Golden Rice hype in the Chicago Tribune as circulated by AgBioView:
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2001 4:55 AM
Subject: Re: IMAGINE A HEALTHIER WORLD - By Bruce M. Chassy, March 11, 2001
Let me introduce myself as someone from the "Developing World" for whom the heart of the scientists, corporates and Mr. Chassy all collectively seem to bleed so much. I thank and bless them for all the concern.
I do not understand a few things about the "Golden Rice" and what Mr. Chassy has written. Hence this mail:
1. If Golden Rice is the greatest biotechnology invention done for a "humanitarian need" identified by the scientists, which did they not ask us (the beneficiaries) whether we wanted to get all our nutrients only through rice? Why were we not involved in the "solution making process". Is it not true that the sicentist with the great "humanitarian" mission landed with a public project only because it was rejected by Nestle?
2. Why is a scientific invention being flaunted with jargons like "millions of children go blind" and "hundrends of millions", etc. DOES THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CARE FOR THE EXACT NUMBERS AT ALL or THE "MILLIONS" as specified by the ad. people would do?
According to the government of my country there are about 25,000 (i.e., 0.025 million) children going blind every year (and we are the highest in the world) due to Vit.A deficiency and in the past decade through vaious programmes, this is being reduced, gradually, but, certainly.
Now, where are these HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dying and going blind children? Not in my country. Of course, we are being sold this Golden Rice in a big way.
3. No, Mr. Chassy the milions of poor in my country DO NO EAT RICE, they eat LEFT-OVERS from anybody who may care to share it with them. Like tourists from your country and continent or scientists. The problem is not that they cannot afford other Vit.A rich food, the problem is THEY CANNOT EVEN BUY THE SUBSIDISED RICE.
4. Mr. Chassy says, that "Most biotech products on the market today benefit primarily farmers and the environment", not in my country. MY FARMERS HAVE BEEN COMMITTING SUICIDE AFTER USING THE BIOTECH PRODUCTS, FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS. We don't know about the environment, we do not own the fancy gadgets that your country people have to measure all kinds of parameters. All that we know is that, our farmers often complain of FRIENDLY INSECTS AND PREDATORS DISAPPEARING after they started using the biotech products.
5. Mr. Chassy, says, that what the activists say "...is a great insult to the scientists and their project, which is not industry-funded". Can I ask him and the scientists, IS IT NOT AN INSULT TO MY PEOPLE IF YOU DECIDE HOW TO OVERCOME MY PROBLEM WITH YOUR SOLUTION AND IMPOSE IT ON MY COUNTRY ("impose" is the word if the President of US of A sells it directly).
6. When I read Mr. Chassy say in his writing, "It is nutritionally different, and it will be labeled as such.", I cannot but, laugh, THE POOR WHOM YOU WANT TO GIVE YOUR GOLDEN RICE CANNOT READ YOUR LABELS! Is that why you are targeting my country?
7. Mr. Chassy says that biotech would have the answers as to how to feed the millions we need to feed in the next 50 years. CAN THERE BE OTHER SOLUTIONS? As people from those millions WHERE IS OUR RIGHT TO DETERMINE THE SOLUTION TO OUR PROBLEM - in the "transfer of technology" doleouts from those, "...who are fortunate enough to live in developed countries"?
I represent a small section of farmers in India, farmers who share the same concerns, who have been growing green leafy vegetables along with rice and other produce to over come the Vit.A deficiency. We are a nation with a history of knowledge older than five centuries, our farming is called farming of 5 centuries. We are recovering for 5 decades from a colonial rule that destroyed our farming activity in a systematic manner. We want to solve our problems ourselves.
Already, we have tried chemical farming, "to get more yield" and though it did, it also spoilt our environment and depleted our water table to make us (according to World Watch) one of the most water scarce areas in the world. Many companies of the DEVELOPED WORLD SOLD US CHEMICALS FOR FARMING, and we know they are doing well, though not all the poor farmers, who buy the chemicals. MANY MORE COMPANIES FROM THE DEVELOPED WORLD ARE SELLING WATER to us now. We know they will become rich with our money.
Now, more scientists and companies from the same, DEVELOPED WORLD are coming to sell us GOLDEN RICE, we do not know whether this is good. We know it will make them rich, it always does. We do not know what else problem it will create, but, we know, for whatever problem it creates, ANOTHER COMPANY FROM THE DEVELOPED WORLD WILL COME WITH REMEDIAL PRODUCT TO THAT PROBLEM too. And we will give our money to them also.We have reasons to be sceptical, I hope you will agree.
We want to solve our own problems. IF YOU WANT TO SHARE SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE, THAKS, you are welcome. But, technology is applied science and as we understand, all application needs knowledge of where and how it would have to be applied, DON'T SELL US TECHNOLOGY, YOU DON'T KNOW OUR CONDITIONS ENOUGH. A few individuals who ran away from our country to live in the developed world, do not constitute local knowledge. They tell you what YOU WANT TO HEAR because, THEY ARE THERE TO MAKE A LIVING.
The problem with Golden Rice sales is not whether or not Biotech companies share holders will become rich and keep investing more. The problem is SELLING A HALF-BAKED SOLUTION TO THE DEVELOPING WORLD. We don't mind if you TAKE AS MANY PICTURES OF POOR PEOPLE FROM MY COUNTRY AS POSSIBLE AND USE IT TO SELL ANYTHING, but, WHEN YOU LET YOUR ADVERTISEMENT AND PUBLIC REALATIONS PEOPLE LEAD YOUR SCIENCE AND HUMANITARIAN activity, and my country is used as a picture background, I think it is extending things a bit too much.
I have reasons to feel hurt and I hope you would agree.
Bless you again for your concern,
Farming Enthusiast from South India