Farmers in the Philippines are among those accusing the developers of
Golden Rice of "sugar-coating" GMOs with "a humanitarian face".
Environmentalists, farmers' groups raise alarm on "Golden Rice"
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 3 September 2013
MANILA, Philippines - Farmers and environmentalist groups on Tuesday
vowed to do everything they could to stop the release of genetically
modified "Golden Rice" in farms and markets owing to its purported
health and environmental risks.
In a statement Jaime Tadeo, spokesperson of the National Rice Farmers
Council, accused producers and developers of Golden Rice of
"sugar-coating" the Vitamin A-enriched product to give "a humanitarian
face" to GMOs, or genetically modified organisms.
"Golden Rice has long been rejected by Filipinos and in other parts of
the world. Its creators are using this to improve their image and we
know they are waging a major public relations campaign to win the hearts
of Filipinos and get this GMO rice in our food on the table," he said.
Research and development of Golden Rice started in 1992 with the
prototype released eight years later by Syngenta, the third largest seed
company and biggest agro-chemical company in the world, according to
The first generation Golden Rice had low concentrations of beta
carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A, and would have required people to
consume 12 times their normal rice intake of rice to obtain the
recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin A, based on a Greenpeace study
In 2005, the Golden Rice Project, supported by companies like Syngenta
that owned patents on genes and processes involved in Golden Rice,
produced the second generation Golden Rice (GR 2) that supposedly had
more beta carotene.
The second generation variety is being tested jointly by the
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and the Philippine Rice
Research Institute (PhilRice) in several locations around the
Philippines, according to Greenpeace.
"I am warning my fellow farmers, once the government approves the Golden
Rice, this will undoubtedly mix with our seeds and we will not be able
to claim our farms as truly organic. What will happen to our thrust of
exporting specialty or organic rice to other countries?" Tadeo said.
The farmers appealed to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to deny the
entry and releases of GMOs into the country, particularly Golden Rice
"because it will not only cost the country its emerging niche in rice
exports but also endanger the country's biodiversity and poses unknown
risks to human health".
"We don't see any benefit in allowing GMOs into the country. It will not
increase our yield that will improve our income. Even the Vitamin A
component of Golden Rice cannot be ascertained by its sponsors," said
Greenpeace noted that the IRRI, which has been leading the development
of Golden Rice, admitted in a statement dated Feb. 26 and posted on its
website that "it has not yet been determined whether daily consumption
of Golden Rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are
vitamin A deficient and could therefore reduce related conditions such
as night blindness."
"If Golden Rice is approved by national regulators, Helen Keller
International and university partners will conduct a controlled
community study to ascertain if eating Golden Rice every day improves
vitamin A status," it added.
"Syngenta may not be after large profits in releasing Golden Rice, per
se. They saw this as a big opportunity to increase the brownie points of
GMO by presenting this as a humanitarian program for the Philippines,"
He raised concerns that other GMO companies would gain entry into the
Philippines, and "that is when they will be able to corner big stakes
for the company".
Tadeo said his group was linking up with consumer and environment groups
in their campaign to keep Philippine rice GMO-free.