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February 15, 2001


Potrykus: Greenpeace Action Against Golden Rice Immoral and


Golden Rice and the Greenpeace dilemma.
Ingo Potrykus

My offer to Greenpeace for a dialogue over Golden Rice was honest and the
response to the reaction of Benedikt Haerlin (campaign leader Greenpeace
International), who accepted a moral obligation in this discussion. His
reaction was the only way out of the problem, that otherwise Greenpeace
would have lost credibility in front of the press, which insisted in a
clear answer on this matter. And Benedikt Haerlin was clever enough to
realize this. I respect his statement and I am looking forward to further
discussions with him. The "hysteric" reactions of other Greenpeace
activists to this step of normalization show that not everybody there
realizes that, if Greenpeace is continuing with its unqualified attacks
against the responsible assessment of Golden Rice, Greenpeace will son
have a credibility problem far more severe than that coming up in context
with the Brent Spar case. At lest part of the media have realized that
there is not much substantiation behind the routine arguments as far as
Golden Rice is concerned. As Greenpeace acativists come again and again
with the argument, that release into the environment is to dangerous, I
invite them to construct a realistic, concrete case. I have not found, in
three years of discussions, with numerous environmentalists, a scenario,
which could justify to ban field testing of Golden Rice. As the pathway is
already in rice (and in every green plant), and then difference is only in
its activity in the endosperm, it is very hard to construct any selective
advantage for Golden Rice in any environment, and, therefore, any
environmental hazard. The same holds true for all the other standard
arguments, and I refer to "The Golden Rice Tale", available on the
internet, and published in March in the journal "In-Vitro". (at

It was very educating to see how selective Greenpeace was citing from my
statement - leaving everything out what did not fit into their view, and
emphazising selectively, what they could use against me: where is the
difference to the PR campaigns Greenpeace likes to complain about? The
"information" from Greenpeace was so distorting that I received compaints,
that I was ignoring the fact, that daily allowance values did not mean
much and that far ower provitamin values could already be expected to have
beneficial effects (the point I was making in my response!). This shows
how Greenpeace had be able to transmit a completely wrong message by
citing me. Here follows a citation from one of the responses to my "wrong"
view: "As I would assume you know, there is vast difference in the amount
of vitamin A needed to reduce mortality, vs that needed to prevent
blindness, vs that needed to prevent night-blindness and other like
symptoms, vs that which satisfies actual metabolic needs, vs that which is
equal to the recommended allowance, vs that which migt be considered for
optimal intake, vs that which might trigger toxicity symptoms. The
vastness of those quantitative differences is further exaggerated in
individuals wose metabolic need for this essential nutrient has been
modified by an extended periode of depriviation. Clearly in individuals
whose diet is almost devoid of vitamin A dietary intake at levels
representing only a small fraction of the "recommended allowance" offers
the potential to have a significant impact on both morbidity and

When I stated that I acknowleged that Greenpeace has identified a weak
point in our strategy, I referred to the fact that only experimental data
gained from nutrition studies with Golden Rice varieties could clarify how
much of provitamin A we would need to offer per gram of rice. These data
will be available only after 1-2years from now. With these data in
hand the optimal lines can than be determined for the final breeding

I invite Greenpeace activists to specify in which area they see potential
problems, that we can take care of these concerns in he process of the
needs assessment and the extended safety assessments. But I expect
concrete proposals, not blund statements like "it is too dangerous to
release transgenic plants into the environment". Please take the trouble
to think about the case of Golden Rice.

To those who feel that they must prevent Golden Rice under all
circumstances (for what ever political, ethical, religious reason) I would
like to repeat: Golden Rice will be used to complement traditional
interventions to compete vitamin A-deficiency. We need compelementation
because the 500 000 blind children per year we have on the background of
traditional interventions. If you plan to destroy test fields to prevent
responsible testing and development of Golden Rice for the humanitarian
purpose, you will be accused of contributing to a crime against humanity.
Your actions will be carefully registred and you will, hopefully, have the
opportunity to defend your illegal and immoral actions in front of an
international court. You may realize that Benedikt Haerlin has reacted
more clever, also in the interest of Greenpeace.