- http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com
Date:May 17 2000 00:28:54 EDT
From: "C. S. Prakash"
Subject: Golden Rice, Prince Charles and James Watson
'GOLDEN RICE' COLLABORATION BRINGS HEALTH BENEFITS NEARER
A collaboration is announced today (Tuesday May 16, 2000) that will help
fight blindness in developing countries through the use of genetically
modified rice. The collaboration will help the inventors of 'Golden Rice'
to deliver their gift of nutritionally-enhanced rice to the developing
nations of the world, bringing closer the health benefits for countries
where Vitamin A deficiency is the cause of 500,000 cases of irreversible
blindness each year.
The inventors of 'Golden Rice' have reached an agreement with Greenovation
and Zeneca, and are working with agencies throughout the world to enable
the delivery of this technology free-of-charge for humanitarian purposes
in the developing world . This will bring closer the 1982 vision of the
Rockefeller Foundation who stimulated and funded this research into rice
varieties which might offer global public health benefits.
Dr. Gary Toenniessen, Director for Food Security at the Rockefeller
Foundation, endorsed the agreement, saying, "this collaboration will speed
the process of conducting all appropriate nutritional and safety testing
and obtaining regulatory approvals. The agreement should help assure that
'Golden Rice' reaches those people it can help most as quickly as
possible. We look forward to following the progress of this agreement as a
possible model for other public-private partnerships designed to benefit
poor people in developing countries".
The inventors of 'Golden Rice', Professor Ingo Protrykus and Dr Peter
Beyer, will fulfil their commitment to give this technology to
resource-poor farmers in developing countries, and contribute to poverty
alleviation by increasing nutritional benefit from crops and income
generation. They will be supported by Zeneca, which has contributed since
1996 to the EU carotenoid research project of which 'Golden Rice' was a
part. Other specialist organisations, in Asia and elsewhere, are being
requested to assist in the development and free delivery of 'Golden Rice'.
Zeneca will explore commercial opportunities for sales of 'Golden Rice'
into the growing market for healthy foods. At the same time, Zeneca will
provide regulatory, advisory and research expertise to assist in making
'Golden Rice ' available in developing countries. 'Golden Rice' has the
potential to provide massive benefit countering Vitamin A
deficiency-related diseases including irreversible blindness.
Dr David Evans, Director of Research and Development at Zeneca, said,
"Over the coming years crop biotechnology will offer consumers a range of
significant benefits, and will play an important role in meeting the
nutritional needs of a growing population. The 'Golden Rice' programme
has the potential to make a major contribution to the health of many
millions in the developing world."
Professor Ingo Potrykus said, "Zeneca has been involved with carotenoid
research for a number of years and have demonstrated an awareness and
sensitivity to the needs of impoverished people in the developing world.
Zeneca will help us to deliver 'Golden Rice' more speedily to those that
need it most."
The collaborators anticipate that 'Golden Rice' will not be available for
local planting and consumption until 2003 at the earliest.
For Further Information contact:
Greenovation: Sabrina Wagner: Tel: +49 761 203 6988
Fax: +49 761 203 6967
Zeneca:Ian Weatherhead: Tel: +44 1428 657096
Fax: +44 1428 657375
Information for Editors
· 'Golden Rice' is a genetically modified rice with high levels of
beta-carotene and other carotenoids. These are precursors to Vitamin A
which is deficient in the diet of people in highly populated areas of
Asia, Africa and Latin America. This agreement facilitates the delivery
of a public health programme aimed at countering deficiency diseases
associated with Vitamin A, which accounts for irreversible blindness in
500,000 children each year (Source: FAO).
· The inventors of 'Golden Rice' are Professor Ingo Potrykus of the
Institute for Plant Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology,
Zurich, Switzerland, and Dr Peter Beyer of the Centre for Applied
Biosciences, University of Freiburg, Germany.
· The 'Golden Rice' technology was developed with funding from the
Rockefeller Foundation (1991-2002), the Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology (1993-1996), the European Union under a European Community
Biotech Programme (FAIR CT96 1633)(1996-2000) and the Swiss Federal Office
for Education and Science (1996-2000).
· Greenovation (http://www.greenovation.com) was founded in Freiburg,
Germany in September 1999. This university spin-off biotechnology company
performs and funds research and development in plant biotechnology for
agricultural and phytopharmaceutical applications. Agribiotech projects
focus on metabolic engineering for increasing nutritional value and on
stress tolerance. Greenovation also performs contract research and serves
as a platform for development and out-licensing of university research
to the life science industry.
· The Rockefeller Foundation is a philanthropic foundation
(www.rockfound.org) affirming John D. Rockefeller's original mandate "to
promote the well-being of mankind throughout the world." The Rockefeller
Foundation is a knowledge-based, global foundation with a commitment to
enrich and sustain the lives and livelihoods of poor and excluded people
throughout the world.
· Zeneca Agrochemicals (http://www.ZenecaAg.com) is the crop protection
and plant science business of AstraZeneca. It is the fourth largest
supplier to this international market, with sales in 1999 of $2.7 billion
in over 130 countries. AstraZeneca (Registered Office, London) is a
leading international pharmaceuticals and bioscience group with 1999 pro
forma sales of $18.5 billion.
·On 2 December 1999 it was announced by the Board of AstraZeneca PLC that
it had agreed with the Board of Novartis AG to demerge and simultaneously
merge AstraZeneca's agrochemicals and Novartis' agrochemicals and seeds
business to create a new listed company, Syngenta AG. The merger, which is
subject to various conditions including competition authority and
shareholder approval, is expected to be completed in the second half of
Third World to receive GM rice
By Michela Wrong in London and Nikki Tait in Chicago
May 16 2000
The inventors of a rice genetically modified to combat Vitamin A blindness
have signed a ground-breaking deal with AstraZeneca that will give Third
World farmers free access to the grain, while allowing the life sciences
company to sell it commercially in the developed world.
The agreement, due to be announced today, is the latest in a series of
Third World-friendly moves by the biotech industry, anxious to improve its
image at a time of unprecedented public hostility toward genetic
Professor Ingo Potrykus, who invented Vitamin A enriched "golden rice"
with German compatriot Peter Beyer, said yesterday he hoped the agreement
would be the first in a series of private-public partnerships involving
crops important to the Third World.
"We need to find an alliance between business on the one hand and research
on the other. I hope this example will make other companies think in the
Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, Swiss government and European Union,
"golden rice" is the most high profile of a "second generation" of
genetically-modified (GM) crops being developed in greenhouses and
laboratories around the world.
Containing the pigment beta-carotene, which gives it a distinctive yellow
colour, it is tailored to tackle the vitamin deficiency that blinds half a
million people each year. Today's deal is being tagged by the signatories
as a "win-win" arrangement which blends philanthropy with self-interest,
allowing both partners - and millions of destitute smallholders - to
Under the deal Zeneca Agrochemicals, the plant science division of the
Anglo-Swedish company, buys commercial rights to "golden rice" from
Greenovation, a small German company acting as intermediary for the
Zeneca then licenses "non-commercial" rights back to the inventors and
undertakes to help them improve the grain, deal with patenting issues and
guide "golden rice" through the costly testing and regulatory process.
The inventors will distribute the rice free to government-run breeding
centres and agriculture institutes in China, India and other
rice-dependent Asian nations. Local farmers will each be allowed to earn
an annual $10,000 without paying royalties.
In exchange, Zeneca will commercialise golden rice in the developed world
as one in a range of "functional foods" which analysts believe are poised
to revolutionise eating habits among an increasingly health-obsessed
"Golden rice contains the anti-oxidant beta-carotene, and anti-oxidants
have been shown to play a role in the fight against cancer and coronary
disease," said Hadyn St Parry, Zeneca general manager. "We see it doing
particularly well in Japan as a functional food."
Coming six weeks after the US biotech giant Monsanto announced it would be
making a "working draft" of the rice genome freely available, today's
"golden rice" deal is certain to be viewed with suspicion by anti-GM
They regard the rice as the "secret weapon" of an industry which they
claim is embracing the fight against world hunger in a bid to repair its
But for those who hope to see the deal repeated with cassava, banana or
sorghum, the agreement raises the crucial question of how easy
establishing and maintaining a two-tier pricing system will prove.
In a world of porous borders and rampant smuggling, Zeneca executives
admit policing at the micro-level will be impractical. The company, which
will subsidise development in poorer countries from activities in the US
and Japan, also risks annoying farmers in the developed world, already
angered by differences in
technology fees charged on GM soybeans in the US and Argentina.
"We're going to have to see how this plays out on the ground before we
regard it as a model to be copied," a spokesman for the Rockefeller
Foundation acknowledged yesterday.
Charles: I fear genetic disaster
May 16, 2000
by Richard Kay and James Chapman
Prince Charles today launches a devastating attack on the 'potentially
disastrous consequences' of GM food and cloning and calls for investment
in traditional agriculture instead.
Charles uses the platform of the prestigious Reith Lecture - to be
broadcast by the BBC tonight - to claim the relentless rush into genetic
engineering means 'literally nothing is held sacred any more' and
scientists are treating the world as a giant laboratory.
But his assault, the latest in a personal crusade, provoked an immediate
counter-attack. Nobel Prize winner Dr James Watson accused Charles of
pandering to superstition and raising irrational fears.
Dr Watson, one of the world's most eminent scientists after mapping the
'double helix' structure of DNA, said there was absolutely no evidence
that GM food posed a threat to human health and predicted that it would
prove hugely beneficial to mankind.
Charles, who first voiced his alarm over genetic manipulation five years
ago, wrote the lecture during his
retreat in Greece earlier this month. It was recorded for tonight's Radio
4 broadcast at his Highgrove home.
He says opposition to the development of 'Frankenstein foods' was wrongly
dismissed as 'a sign of weakness - or even a wish to halt progress. On the
contrary, I believe it to be a sign of strength and of wisdom.'
The Prince argues that, in the area of 'artificial and uncontained
transfer of genes between species of plants
and animals, the lack of hard scientific evidence of harmful consequences
is regarded, in many quarters, as sufficient reason to allow such
developments to proceed.
'The idea of taking a precautionary approach, in this and many other
potentially damaging situations, receives overwhelming public support but
still faces a degree of official opposition.'
Though Charles does not address cloning directly, his call for 'greater
respect for the genius of nature's designs' will be taken as a clear
indication that he finds work in the area abhorrent.
The Prince says: 'If literally nothing is held sacred any more, because it
is considered synonymous with
superstition - or in some other way irrational - what is there to prevent
us treating our entire world as some great laboratory of life, with
potentially disasterous long term consequences.'
According to Charles, nature is now regarded 'as a system that can be
engineered for our own convenience or as a nuisance to be evaded and
manipulated and in which anything that happens can be fixed by technology
and human ingenuity. If a fraction of the money currently being invested
in developing genetically manipulated crops were applied to understanding
and improving traditional systems of agriculture, which have stood the
all-important test of time, the results would be remarkable.'
Charles has long been a vocal critic of 'tinkering' with the genetic
make-up of food, raising fears about the impact of GM crops on human
health and the environment. Last year an article he wrote for the Daily
Mail, attacking the GM culture, provoked a row. He has also clashed with
the Government on the issue and surveys have shown his views command wide
Many other critics have voiced fears that animal cloning 'breakthroughs'
will increase pressure for the cloning of human embryos to produce cells
for transplant. They also warn that science is entering uncharted
territory and risking unpredictable side effects.
In response, scientists who favour the technology have argued that it can
bring innumerable benefits in fighting disease. Some claim organic food
actually poses greater risks - earlier this week it was revealed that it
can carry far higher levels of potentially dangerous bacteria.
The intensity of the debate was shown yesterday when, even before the
royal lecture was broadcast, reports of its 'anti-science' content
prompted fierce criticism from experts gathered in London for the annual
lunch of the Government's parliamentary and scientific committee.
Dr Watson said of the Prince's approach to new scientific developments:
'It is an emotional response. People are frightened by genes. The Prince
of Wales and a lot of other people don't like new buildings - it is the
'He is one of the many people who are worried about the world moving too
fast. But the world is really rather wretched for a lot of people and
science and technology can improve their lives rather than make them
worse. We will be able to improve the quality of food.'
Dr Watson cited a 'golden rice', created by genetic manipulation, that can
By splicing daffodil and bacteria genes into rice plants, scientists have
produced a 'transgenic' variety that is fortified to deliver the total
daily vitamin A requirement for people in the Third World.
Dr Watson said: 'The Prince of Wales shouldn't cry wolf until he sees a
He also accused Charles of harming British interests, explaining: 'British
botany is the best in the world and we want the benefits of it.'
The rapid rebuttal of the Prince's position reflects growing frustration
among scientists who view fears over the safety of GM crops as irrational
Dr Watson added: 'People say we are playing God. In all honesty, if
scientists don't play God, who will?'
Supporters of the Prince will point to the remark as an example of the
very attitude he is seeking to challenge.
In tonight's lecture, Charles calls for a renewed sense of a 'sacred trust
between mankind and our Creator' under which we accept a duty of
stewardship for the Earth.
Such sentiment has, he claims, been largely eclipsed by 'almost
impenetrable layers of scientific rationalism'.