My Personal Thoughts on Golden Rice & Recent Vandalism

In the past week I have heard far more about Golden Rice than I had imagined I would. I first read of the vandalism of a test plot of Golden Rice in the most ironic of ways… I saw the news of it tweeted by Toby Bruce, one of the researchers at Rothamsted.

So, in case that first paragraph has you wondering what I am talking about, let me step back with a few quick definitions.

Shared through Creative Commons thanks to IRRI Images

Shared through Creative Commons thanks to IRRI Images on Flickr

What is Golden Rice?

Golden Rice is have a crop that has been tested several years. The scientists behind it found a way through biotechnology to get betacarotene in rice resulting in adding vitamin A to diets. The scientists goal? It could be helpful for many people in the world who have diets that are heavily dependent on rice and due to a lack of vitamin A in their diets. This lack of vitamin A causes blindness and at times, death.

Why would vandals destroy rice?

Golden Rice is a GMO crop (a post I wrote on that general topic) and that, in and of itself, makes it controversial for some and the polarization of the discussion around GMOs just keeps growing. The controversy has been on-going for quite some time for Golden Rice — it appears that it has been in research since 1999.

This research was being done under specific legal conditions and although I understand how passionately some detest biotechnology, but this research has been funded by public and charitable efforts. As I’ve read descriptions, I wonder if people who don’t like GMOs feel people who have embraced Golden Rice are overstating things. I also have to wonder if some people involved are naive, but have to think other benefit from the polarization & fan the flames with misinformation.

Why wouldn’t I do it?

rice field in The PhilippinesFirst off, vandalism is wrong. It’s illegal and in this case, well, I would suggest immoral too. But I also have a direct connection. A personal one.

When I was in The Philippines a few years ago on vacation, friends and I agnerded it up and actually spent a day at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the institution developing Golden Rice. (I especially love that I knew exactly how to find a photo for this post thanks to the conversation I had with IRRI’s communications team on how they can store extensive data through free online services.) I also visited the university’s public breeding efforts in Los Banos since my friend Albert had studied there before coming to the US.

I was captivated by the passion the team in Los Banos has for improving things for farmers in rural areas of Asia, Africa, etc who rely on meager rice harvests to keep their families alive. Golden Rice is just one of many projects they have going on.

Since I’m a supporter, I want to say, I think it is simply one way to help solve the issue. I would love to find ways for more people to get more diversified diets too. I think there are lots of other sources of betacarotene & vitamin A that aren’t accessible to the families going blind. We should certainly be looking at other options as well. And no, I don’t think this rice won’t save everyone’s eyesight. It’s a step in the right direction is all. And yes, if this crop went through all of the regulatory hurdles the US has in place, I would eat it and serve it to the children in my family, especially if I thought they weren’t getting enough vitamin a! Of course, the scales of understanding are totally different hear as young children go to eye doctors when vision doesn’t appear to be 20-20. The people who need this rice don’t have access to those facilities. We are truly blessed here.

Why is hearing about it from Toby Bruce ironic?

In early May 2012, I had no idea who Toby Bruce was, nor had I ever heard of Rothamsted Research (if I had, I promptly had forgotten it). But when vandals threatened to destroy a biotech wheat trial, he and other researchers took to social media. The video making a plea to let their GM research continue grabbed my attention and I began following him on Twitter.

Now, based on a tweet of his and following IRRI’s communications more closely, I wonder if I will be getting to know Bruce Tolentino…. this video was among the pieces IRRI shared with a Sunday post titled “Visit to vandalized Golden Rice field trial.”

Sorry I have meandered around this topic. But I kind of thought I needed to talk it through a little and I hope it’s ok that I chose to do it here instead of on the phone with a friend. Then after all of that, I find my friend Val Wagner has also been thinking about bioterrorists.

If you agree that vandalism is out of bounds, please sign on to the change.org petition condemning the destruction of golden rice.

 

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About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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13 Responses to My Personal Thoughts on Golden Rice & Recent Vandalism

  1. SlowMoneyFarm August 13, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    Disrespect is rampant. Destruction of crops, farm production, state fair exhibits. Sad.

    • Janice Person August 13, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

      It’s really not the way to solve things IMHO. And the butter cow incident…. I just don’t even know what would motivate that.

      • SlowMoneyFarm August 13, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

        Selfishness? The all food choices must be just like mine? If I can’t make you do what I want I’ll destroy the work? I can’t think of anything positive about it,anything supportive or ethical.
        And have heavily censored what I really think on the whole thing. Unprintable things. Things that should remain thoughts, not recorded.

      • Janice Person aka JPlovesCOTTON August 13, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

        And they think there actions are noble…. They think they have the moral high ground! That’s what really gets me going!

  2. David Simmons August 13, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    Great information on a sad state of affairs.

  3. Arjun Jadeja August 13, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    It is unfortunate that such experiments are being opposed by vested interests.Large swaths of land in Asia and Africa are under-productive,and millions hungry and under nourished.We have to encourage research in agriculture.There is no two ways about it.

    • Janice Person August 13, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

      I agree. I also think we need to address infrastructure & other issues, but agricultural innovation must be part of it. Thanks for commenting Arjun.

  4. Cotton Boll Conspiracy August 14, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    I notice that often it’s the well-fed, well-educated types who are behind these types of vandalism, which seems elitist considering that, in this case, GMO rice would be of great benefit to people in other parts of the world who don’t have access to a varied diet because of poverty.

    Perhaps if they spent a week in a village where a number of individuals had gone blind because of a lack of Vitamin A in their diets they might change their minds.

    • Janice Person August 14, 2013 at 7:38 am #

      I have to say that I agree. People riot over not being able to feed their kids, not over people trying to help. The education and income gaps are staggering…. I have been to small villages where I realized quickly how different and privileged the world I grew up in was…. And by US standards that wasn’t the case. Traveling can really open your eyes!

  5. Joseph November 19, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Great article! The future damage to health and biological diversity is unprecedented by GMO foods. There is a reason why they are banned in numerous countries, and scientific findings support this. Interestingly, Bill Gates has funded the aluminum-resistant GMO for crops, while at the same time funding spraying of aluminium aerosols for Geoengineeing. Do we really want free-radical aluminium in our air and soil? Nevertheless, I think we need to rethink the idea of corporate takeover of our world. And you are correct about the vandalism.

    (Shaitan said): “And most certainly I will lead them astray and excite in them vain desires, and bid them so that they shall slit the ears of the cattle, and most certainly I will bid them so that they shall alter GOD’s creation; and whoever takes the Shaitan for a guardian rather than GOD, he indeed shall suffer a manifest loss. [4:119]

    • Janice Person November 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      I have to wonder whether you really read my article. I think the safety of the GMOs currently on the market has been proven unequivocally. I also think that keeping golden rice off the market is cruel to the people who could benefit from it.

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