Environmental organizations put children's lives at risk

Environmental organizations put children's lives at risk

In the Philippines, the cultivation of Golden Rice has been temporarily banned. NGOs have obtained a cultivation ban based on scientifically untenable arguments. The poorest people, who could be protected from nutritional deficiencies by this rice, are the ones suffering the most. Martin Qaim, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Bonn, strongly criticizes this renewed blockade and explains the background in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung."

Thursday, June 29, 2023

In November 2022, Filipino farmers harvested Golden Rice for the first time. It was good news because it took as long as 30 years from the idea to the first harvest. As reported by the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," the cultivation of Golden Rice in the Philippines has been stopped again. Greenpeace and the local NGO MASIPAG successfully protested against the cultivation of Golden Rice in the country's Supreme Court. It is no longer allowed to cultivate Golden Rice. Martin Qaim, the professor of agricultural economics and director of the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn, provides an analysis of this decision in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung."


Exploitation of unfounded fears

As Qaim explains, the NGOs successfully exploited old fears. In their petition to the Supreme Court, they argued that the cultivation of Golden Rice should be stopped because genetically modified plants allegedly harm nature and human health. The court's decision is surprising and incomprehensible: "...Golden Rice was assessed as safe after many years of testing its environmental and health effects in the Philippines in 2021. Since then, no new information about environmental and health risks has been found," Qaim states in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung." According to the agricultural economist, the NGOs refer to hypothetical risks that are not supported by scientific evidence.


Thousands of children's lives could be saved

Due to the successful petition by Greenpeace and MASIPAG, the approval of Golden Rice is once again delayed. This is regrettable because the rice enriched with provitamin A could prevent blindness in many people, especially children, and reduce high child mortality rates. Qaim says in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," "Research conducted by my research group shows that the use of Golden Rice would probably not completely solve the problem of vitamin A deficiency but could reduce it by 60%. This means, among other things, that thousands of children's lives could be saved each year through Golden Rice. That's why it's so unfortunate that its use is further delayed."


Setback for modern plant breeding

The decision in the Philippines represents a setback for Qaim: "The decision in the Philippines is a setback because it likely reinforces the prejudice that the technology is dangerous." However, new breeding methods such as genome editing represent a tremendous opportunity for food security and more sustainable agriculture. "Especially in light of climate change, we would be ill-advised not to responsibly harness these potentials," says Qaim. And he remains optimistic that scientific evidence will ultimately prevail over deliberately stoked fears.

Sources

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, May 7, 2023



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Nobel laureates criticize NGOs

In 2016, more than 100 Nobel laureates signed an open letter calling for the use of modern breeding technologies in agriculture. According to the United Nations, the demand for food will double by 2050. The new breeding technologies are necessary to meet this demand. The scientists also strongly criticize NGOs like Greenpeace, who prevent the cultivation of Golden Rice and fundamentally oppose new breeding techniques.

Opponents of new breeding methods are increasingly finding themselves in a difficult position. They ignore science and simply repeat old unfounded criticisms. The German environmental organization "Aurelia" openly admitted this in an internal strategy paper, as reported by the "Welt am Sonntag": "With predominantly scientific arguments, we can only lose because we have nothing to counter the 'Follow the Science-Leopoldina authority framing'... That's why environmentalists conclude that a new narrative is needed for the application of genetic technology in plant breeding. This new narrative should be based not on facts but on emotions such as freedom of choice, love for nature (bees), and the power of seed companies."

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