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Date:

February 12, 2001

Subject:

SCIENTISTS REBUKE CRITICS OF GOLDEN RICE

 

SCIENTISTS REBUKE CRITICS OF GOLDEN RICE
Biotech Rice Can Benefit Developing World

Agbioworld Press Release
http://www.agbioworld.com/pr/rebuke.html

TUSKEGEE, AL February 13, 2001 -- The co-developer of a new
variety of rice, created to address severe Vitamin A deficiency in
developing countries, came forward this week to refute claims by
anti-technology activists that the product is useless. Swiss
scientist Ingo Potrykus responded to erroneous and misleading
claims by environmental organizations -- most recently including
Greenpeace -- that have tried to discredit Golden Rice and the
motives of its developers.

Golden Rice was created by Potrykus and German scientist
Peter Beyer in a publicly funded research program aimed at
meeting the dire nutritional needs of low-income populations in
the developing world. According to the United Nations, at least a
million children around the world die every year from severe
vitamin A deficiency, and nearly half a million more go blind. "We
want to provide rice that has enough provitamin A to have a clear
beneficial effect on vitamin-A deficient people" wrote Potrykus in
a public statement released this week on the AgBioView Listserv
(www.agbioworld.org), a web-based forum on biotechnology and
sustainable agriculture.

Activists have claimed that Golden Rice does not include enough
provitamin-A to be beneficial. But, as Potrykus notes, their
calculations are based on "luxurious recommendations,
representing a 'nice to have'-supply." Nutrition experts consulted
for the project agree that "the amounts required for the
prevention of those severe symptoms of vitamin A deficiency are
significantly lower than given by RDA-values." Potrykus added
that "Experienced nutritionists tell us that [ours] is a realistic
goal, as we are, possibly, already in the 20-40 percent range of
the daily allowance."

Skeptics have also claimed that Golden Rice is a fantasy
dreamed up by the biotechnology industry to mute criticism. Dr.
Potrykus noted, however, that the research was totally funded by
public sector and charitable contributions, and was never
intended to boost the reputation of biotech corporations. "The
Golden Rice project was started in 1990 when nobody thought
that it might help improve acceptability of the technology."

Professor C.S. Prakash, director of the Center for Plant
Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University and president of
the AgBioWorld Foundation, questioned activists' reasons for
rejecting Golden Rice. "Critics condemned biotechnology as
something that is purely for profit, that is being pursued only in
the West, and with no benefits to the consumer. Golden Rice
proves them wrong, so they need to discredit it any way they
can." Prakash is joined in his support for this and other
advanced plant breeding developments by more than 3,000
scientists, including five Nobel Prize winners, who have signed a
Declaration in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology.

Scientists, including Potrykus, admit that Golden Rice will not
solve the problem of malnutrition by itself. Most also support
additional efforts to address the many needs of developing world
farmers. Continuing research still needs to be conducted before
Golden Rice can be released for widespread cultivation. "We
have to be patient for a few years, until this can be verified or
falsified," said Potrykus. But "we have good reasons to believe
that the approach has a fair chance to be successful."

Contact Dr. Prakash:
prakash@agbioworld.org
(work) 334-727-8023
(cell) 334-740-6206

Source: The AgBioWorld Foundation
Web site: http://www.agbioworld.org