A campaign to allow golden rice for tackling Vitamin A deficiency in children, was launched on March 16.
Headed by co-founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, the campaign for the golden rice was launched in the Philippines on March 6 and in Bangladesh on Wednesday. In India, it will begin in New Delhi and then extend to Mumbai on March 19.
But the campaign is opposed by a group of 20 non-governmental organizations across the world under the banner of “Stop Golden Rice Alliance”.
The Alliance alleges that the campaign for launching the Vitamin A-enriched golden rice is a covert attempt to win wider approval for genetically modified food. Stating that the golden rice will not solve the problems of malnutrition.
Vitamin A deficiency is not caused by the lack of the vitamin in food, but by people’s inability to achieve a balanced diet, according to the Alliance.
But Moore, in a statement in Dhaka on Wednesday, said: “Golden rice is the obvious cure, but because it was created with genetic science, Greenpeace and the anti-GMO movement oppose it. No country has approved it for cultivation.
“If golden rice was a cure for a disease like malaria, cancer, or ebola it would have been approved years ago,” said Moore, who quit Greenpeace in 1986 saying the organization did not care about people and it was more worried about politics than science.
Issues underlying Vitamin A deficiency can never be addressed by promoting genetically-modified golden rice, the Alliance said.
Moore said golden rice has been proven to deliver Vitamin A to both adults and children.
However, the Alliance said that the increased complexity of the genetic construction of golden rice makes it more hazardous than the existing genetically modified plants.
Proponents of golden rice say that the rice containing beta carotene and maize genes spliced into it, will significantly reduce Vitamin A deficiency cheaply and efficiently than the long-standing Vitamin A supplement program.
But the Alliance said many countries have already succeeded using Vitamin A supplement. It is proven cost-effective. Two doses of Vitamin A supplementation per child cost between $0.25 and $2 a year in 103 priority countries.
A joint clinical trial by American and Chinese scientists has demonstrated that the golden rice is as effective at providing Vitamin A as beta carotene pills. The rice has been put through a deep risk-assessment process and shows no allergenic or toxic effects.
The pro-golden rice campaigners allege that the opposition to the rice is to justify anti-GM activists’ zero-tolerance approach to genetic modification in general.