domingo, abril 03, 2005

March 29, 2005

GM WATCH daily

Golden Rice is back - a new PR blitz is underway to acccompany publication of an article on how Syngenta scientists have managed to increase the level of precursor Vitamin A in the rice. See: 'GM golden rice boosts vitamin A'

This is great news in GM propaganda terms as Golden Rice was the best poster child the technology had until Syngenta, the GM giant which owns many of the patents on the rice, and its supporters overplayed their hand.

TIME magazine ran a cover bearing the legend: "This rice could save a million kids a year" while Syngenta itself claimed that a single month of marketing delay would cause 50,000 children to go blind.

This sudden passionate concern might anyway be somewhat hard to take from a company that has been embroiled in unsavoury controversy over its child-labour practices in India and that could, if it had been that concerned, have made a major dent in the problem at any time by just diverting a fraction of its advertising revenues, but it also emerged that the very low level of precursor Vitamin A in Golden Rice meant that it couldn't possibly provide the help that Syngenta was claiming for it.

To add to Syngenta's embarrassment, the Chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation, the main sponsor of the project, responded to a letter of concern from Dr Vandana Shiva by saying, "I agree with Dr Shiva that the public relations uses of golden rice have gone too far. The industry's advertisements and the media in general seem to forget that it is a research product that needs considerable further development before it will be available to farmers and consumers."

But now, it seems, the bandwagon is up and running again with news of a new improved extra-vitamin A Golden Rice - despite the fact that there are a whole series of other issues that remain unaddressed. Curiously, one of Syngenta's own scientists raised a key point of concern in comments he made to the BBC journalist Alex Kirby: "All the genes are present in rice. One could make a non-GM vitamin-A rice simply by studying those genes in a more focused way."


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