A group of 107 Nobel laureates signed onto a letter calling out the environmental group Greenpeace for its longstanding opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Washington Post reports:
“We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against ‘GMOs’ in general and Golden Rice in particular,” the letter states. […]
“We’re scientists. We understand the logic of science. It’s easy to see what Greenpeace is doing is damaging and is anti-science,” [the letter’s organizer, chief scientific officer of New England Biolabs Richard Roberts] told The Washington Post. “Greenpeace initially, and then some of their allies, deliberately went out of their way to scare people. It was a way for them to raise money for their cause.”
The letter pays particular attention to Golden Rice, a GMO that, the letter states, “has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia.” It’s a nifty crop—researchers figured out that by adding genes from bacteria and corn, they could create a strain of rice that can be a good source of vitamin A. And that’s an important vitamin—deficiency doesn’t just cause blindness, it also weakens immune systems and is linked to 2 million deaths annually.
And yet, and yet…Greenpeace doesn’t approve. Worse than that, the group’s eco-activists have actively mobilized against its cultivation in the developing world (where it’s needed most), spreading fear and misinformation that’s lead to incidences of targeted vandalism against Golden Rice field trials. They’ve preyed on the public’s apprehension of the unknown, willfully ignoring the counsel of scientists like Michael D. Purugganan, a biology professor and the Dean of Science for NYU, who said that “the genes they inserted to make the vitamin are not some weird manufactured material, but are also found in squash, carrots and melons.” Like so many other environmentalists and green groups, Greenpeace only pays attention to modern science when it’s convenient for the cause du jour, conveniently shedding that affiliation when it’s no longer expedient.
The Nobel laureates’ letter concludes with a question: “How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”?” From where we’re sitting, consigning hundreds of thousands of poor children to blindness and contributing to millions of otherwise preventable deaths every year certainly seems to cross that line. Greenpeace has a long history taking highly publicized “stands” to draw attention to its cause (or maybe more accurately to attract press for the group itself), but this is more than some flash-in-the-pan stunt, and human lives are on the line. And don’t take our word for it—a group of more than 100 of the planet’s best and brightest just said so.