Jonathan Matthews

Charles Margulis of the Centre for Environmental Health has been following the GMO golden rice project for many years and has kept a collection of quotes (listed below), documenting a decade and a half’s worth of failed promises of the crop’s imminent arrival. This has made him wonder whether golden rice should be considered vaporware – something that’s announced with great fanfare to the media and the public but which never actually becomes available.

The most recent fanfare comes from Patrick Moore (right) – now notorious for the interview in which he refused to drink the Roundup herbicide he claims is safe to drink by the quart! – with his Allow Golden Rice Now campaign. The name of the campaign is itself a lie – the “Now” implies that golden rice is already available for use and that it is a proven “cure” for Vitamin A Deficiency, so all we have to do is remove any unnecessary obstacles. But none of this is true.

Despite the cover of TIME magazine proclaiming a decade and a half ago, “This rice could save a million kids a year” and the project having been launched as far back as 1985, golden rice still is not ready, as is clear from the revealing collection of quotes below.

And it’s important to emphasise that this delay is entirely down to over-promising and failure to deliver and not, as the likes of Patrick Moore like to claim, due to pushback from golden rice’s critics. The New York Times reporter Amy Harmon, who has reported sympathetically on golden rice,confirms that she has never seen any convincing evidence activism has significantly delayed the production of Golden Rice.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, one of the main target countries for golden rice, dramatic declines in Vitamin A deficiency have been achieved using already available non-GMO methods. And as the final quote below from UNICEF makes plain, methods of tackling VAD have been available throughout the period in which we have been told to imminently expect the arrival of golden rice.

Imagine if all the multi-million dollar budgets and PR energy that have been lavished on golden rice had gone instead into making these simple proven approaches more widely available. How many children’s lives could have been dramatically improved or saved?

As the World Food Prize winner Hans Herren has lamented, “We already know today that most of the problems that are to be addressed via golden rice and other GMOs can be resolved in a matter of days, with the right political will.”

Finally, this excellent video shows how people in the Philippines are responding critically to golden rice.

Isn’t it about time politicians and the mainstream media started listening to voices like theirs, rather than to GMO lobbyists like Patrick Moore and their vaporware promises?