Climate denial and promoting GMOs are both about defending big corporate interests.
"Why don't you starve to death? Fitting end for [a] misanthropic retard." That was what Patrick Moore tweeted to a woman who disagreed with him about the value of Golden Rice. A week later he had GMWatch in his sights: "as I've said before, you are murdering bastards and deserve to rot in Hell for your anti-human sins."
Moore is clearly enraged by those who are sceptical about Golden Rice. But where does this passion come from? Moore has no obvious history of helping people in the developing world. In fact, since leaving Greenpeace about 30 years ago, Moore's history is one of helping environmentally dubious industries defend their PR image. He has earned a good living defending everything from mining to clearcut logging, nuclear power to fish farms, PVC to GMOs, leading another founder member of Greenpeace to brand Moore a "corporate whore" and "a hired gun for industry" who defends his clients "with lies, character attacks, and pseudo scientific justifications."
And Moore's assault on environmental concerns doesn't stop at a client list that reads like a Who's Who of unsavoury corporations. Just last week Moore was busy telling the US Senate, Fox News and anyone else that would listen, that there was "no proof" that humans cause climate change. And, as always, in doing so he traded on his long-gone Greenpeace past.
Revealingly, the PR-savvy Moore is far from alone among the leading Golden Rice promoters in publicly denying, or underplaying, climate change. For instance, Bjorn Lomborg, Owen Paterson, who calls anti-GM campaigners "wicked" and "disgusting", and Matt Ridley, all do both. In other words, while they attack the humanity of those who dare to question whether Golden Rice is the most effective way to tackle Vitamin A deficiency, they quite happily encourage inaction on climate change which threatens some of the poorest people on the planet with catastrophic floods, drought, hunger and disease.
This incongruity is perhaps not so puzzling once one recognises what climate denial and promoting GMOs have in common. They are both about defending big corporate interests. In one case this means the biotech industry, which at one point even flew Moore to New Zealand to speak on their behalf, and on the other it means the likes of Exxon Mobil, on whose behalf Moore attacked the Royal Society for publicly criticising the company for its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
Moore also appears to see no contradiction between claiming, in the case of Golden Rice, to be championing "science", while simultaneously being a climate flat-earther. But it turns out that Moore's claims about Golden Rice have about as much to do with science and reality as his climate denial.
Golden Rice, according to Moore, has not only long been available for use but science has already shown it to be an effective cure for Vitamin A deficiency. It is on this basis that Moore denounces "Greenpeace and its allies" for opposing it. Their opposition, he claims, has led to unnecessary death and blindness for millions, and this he says constitutes a crime against humanity. The only problem with all this is that it is completely untrue! And you don't have to take our word for it. It is IRRI, the body in charge of the roll out of Golden Rice, that has made that crystal clear.
After the publication of a piece about Golden Rice by Bjorn Lomborg, and another article on the topic quoting Mark Lynas, the IRRI felt it necessary to issue a statement flatly contradicting the claims that Golden Rice is (a) already available and (b) proven to be effective. On the latter the IRRI says: "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." (The IRRI's statement is so important that we reproduce it in its entirety below.)
Once one realises that Moore's fiery rhetoric has no basis in scientific reality, one has to wonder about those who are so keen to promote it - like the John Innes Centre who recently provided him with a platform for an onslaught on the critics of Golden Rice that was predictably high on emotion and low on accuracy. But then the JIC has been equally happy to provide a platform to Matt Ridley, another climate sceptic with an anti-green axe to grind. Science can go hang, it seems. All that counts is whether they are pro-GMO.
More on Moore's Golden Rice campaign
More on Golden Rice
Clarifying recent news about Golden Rice
IRRI, February 21 2013
In February, two major stories about Golden Rice appeared in The Guardian and Project Syndicate, sparking a number of other articles. They describe the long history of Golden Rice development and note its important potential contribution to addressing vitamin A deficiency.
While we join others in hoping that Golden Rice will soon be found to be safe and efficacious so that it can be put to use to help some of the most vulnerable people suffering from vitamin A deficiency, we want to clear up two potential misunderstandings.
First, we’ve seen statements that “In a few months, golden rice… will be given to farmers in the Philippines for planting in the paddy fields,” and “Finally, ‘golden rice’ with vitamin A will be grown in the Philippines.” A few headlines indicate that Golden Rice is approved in the Philippines.
In fact, Golden Rice will not be available for planting by farmers in the Philippines or any other country in the next few months, or even this year.
The Philippine Rice Research Institute, in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute and other partners, have recently finished two seasons of field trials in the Philippines, but this doesn’t mean that Golden Rice is now ready for planting by farmers. Data from these trials must next be submitted to Philippine government regulators for their evaluation as part of the biosafety approval process.
Secondly, the lead for the one story describes Golden Rice as “a new strain that boosts vitamin A levels and reduces blindness in developing countries.”
It’s true that human nutrition research indicates that the beta carotene in Golden Rice is readily converted to vitamin A in the body, providing encouraging evidence that eating Golden Rice could help reduce vitamin A deficiency.
However, 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.
In short, Golden Rice will only be made available broadly to farmers and consumers in the Philippines if it is approved by national regulators and shown to reduce vitamin A deficiency in community conditions. This process may take another two years or more.
In the meantime, we’re grateful for all the interest and support!
Links to recent stories about Golden Rice:
“After 30 years, is a GM food breakthrough finally here?” by Robin McKie, The Guardian
"A Golden Rice Opportunity,” by Bjørn Lomborg, Project Syndicate