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July 12, 2000


NGOs, Golden Rice and Shiva


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

Subj: re: NGDOs and GMOs
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000 3:37:09 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Robert Vint"


What's the contradiction between supporting the technological potential of
GMOs and calling for a moratorium pending scientific evaluation? I think
the NGDOs (Non-Governmental Development Organisations) are listening to
the Third World farmers they work for (this is the central policy of many
NGDOs) and, in response, are advocating rational caution rather than
opposing science. They want to be sure that any new technology will help
rather than hinder the people they work for - principally that it will
increase their self-reliance, reduce their financial dependency and reduce
expenditure on agricultural inputs.

Currently the jury is out as to whether GM crops will do this or whether
they will have the opposite effect. We should listen to the concerns
expressed by African nations [ www.oneworld.org/panos/news/biodoc5.htm ]
and by farmers in India
(www.agp.org/agp/en/News/monsanto98/981128firstfield.html) and the
Phillipines and elsewhere [ www.connectotel.com/gmfood/po270699.txt &
www.grain.org/press/press020600.htm ] - they are pragmatists and will
adopt new techniques when they are sure they will help.

The Five Year Freeze Campaign brings together over 140 NGOs including ones
that probably see significant potential in GM technology and a few that
probably oppose it on principle - all they agree on is that civil society
should evaluate this technology properly before deciding which
applications will benefit society and which will not.
Robert Vint

Date: Jul 11 2000 17:09:27 EDT
From: Alex Avery
Subject: Golden rice and Shiva Lies

>Date: Jul 10 2000 22:12:43 EDT
>From: Marcus Williamson
>SubjectRe: Engineering Environmental Disaster
>Unfortunately, farmers have in many cases stopped growing leafy green
>vegetables for economic reasons. This is what's causing the lack of
>vitamin A which is then being used as a marketing spin vehicle by the
>GM lobby in trying to promote their "fix it" products...
>I know you won't like me saying so, but listen to Vandana Shiva on this
>issue. She lives and works in India which is one of the countries affected
>by the problem.
>So, I repeat, the solution is not to grow a "fix" in the form of a GM rice
>which will promote monoculture at the expense of the environment. Instead,
>the solution is to reestablish the balance of crops which will ensure that
>people are fed with real food which is both sufficient in quantity and
>nutritious, without requiring genetic modification.

Marcus, I hate to burst your bubble, but Shiva simply doesn't know what she
is talking about. Her doctoral degree is ostensibly in physics, however
she knows little about nutrition. I've spoken with several nutritionists
with the United Nations Children's Fund's (UNICEF) Global Vitamin A
Initiative, a program set up to combat persistant vitamin A deficiencies
around the world. They say that a diverse diet and leafy green vegetables
won't solve the problem.

The vitamin A in leafy green vegetables isn't readily available for uptake
into the body. It is complexed with lots of other proteins and stuff, so
when you eat it, you only get a small percentage of the total vitamin A
present. The rest passes through without nutritional benefit. When I
asked Shiva about this at the Congressional World Hunger/Biotech Forum, she
reverted back to her elitist stance. She said:

"First, the green leafy vegetables are not the only source of vitamin A.
There are tremendous fruit varieties that are also sources of vitamin A. It
is now recognized by every nutritionist that the areas where we are getting
vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency, calcium deficiency, are in regions
where the impact of the green revolution has wiped out the biodiversity

In fact, "every nutritionist" does not agree with her, but like any good
charlatan, Shiva just blusters her way through it. Let's look at one
verifiable fact--well before the green revolution, vitamin A deficiency was
a huge problem in these areas, despite a "diverse traditional diet."

Shiva has also suggested that these poor people simply should eat more
meat, liver, and dairy products, also good sources of vitamin A, instead of
relying on the "dangerous golden rice." Again, we ask "How are extremely
poor people in rural areas with low infrastructure and little to no
immediate economic growth prospects going to afford to increase the
quality and variety of their diets."

In fact, the UNICEF nutritionists and other nutritionists I've spoken with
say emphatically that even in the U.S., without food fortification, there
would be many individuals suffering nutritional deficiencies. Simply put,
Shiva has no credibility and she is contradicted by experts spending their
professional lives in efforts to improve the health of poor people and
children around the world.

>I'm still waiting for a reply from Ingo Potrykus on the safety testing
>which has been carried out on "vitamin A" rice.
>Marcus Williamson
>Editor, "Genetically Modified Food - UK and World News"

Great Marcus, you are standing in the way of a truly humanitarian effort.
Are you proud of yourself? If you knew anything about toxicology and food
science, you would know that the type of high-dose "safety testing" you are
demanding, analogous to the type of testing done on pharmaceuticals, is
impossible to conduct on food items.

Food can be fed to animals and humans at normal levels and if no problems
are seen then it can be deemed "as safe as other foods." However, the
high-dose testing fails because problems will almost certainly arise when a
single food comprises a large portion of the total dietary intake--whether
the food is natural or genetically engineered. Feed a mammal, any mammal,
enough popcorn and it will develop nutritional deficiencies or other
complications--simply because it doesn't have a balanced enough diet.

Marcus, why are you against golden rice, as part of a balanced, multi-prong
effort to combat a pernicious global, devastating nutritional deficiency
problem? No one says it is the total answer, a panacea. But it certainly
could help. You are being totally unreasonable, in my humble opinion.

Alex A. Avery
Director of Research and Education
Center for Global Food Issues
Hudson Institute
P.O. Box 202
Churchville, VA 24421
(540) 337-6354
fax: (540) 337-8593
email: aavery@rica.net