Petition to condemn Golden Rice vandalism gains support from scientific community

| August 14, 2013
Vandalized Golden Rice field trial. via DA-RFU 5 Public Information Unit
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Following the destruction of a Golden Rice field trial in the Philippines last week, an online petition condemning the attack posted by Dr. C.S. Prakash, plant geneticist and professor of biotechnology and genomics at Tuskegee University, gained more than 1500 signatures in just 36 hours. The petition urges scientists world-wide to show their support in condemning the anti-GM tactics:

We the undersigned members of the global scientific community condemn the recent destruction of a Philippine Department of Agriculture’s Golden Rice trial plot in Pili, Camarines Sur organized by Peasant Movement of the Philippines and SIKWAL-GMO. We equally condemn the use of rumors and misinformation to raise unwarranted fears in vulnerable sectors of the population and to incite anyone to acts of destruction.

The field trial, funded by the International Rice Research Institute and the Philippine Rice Research Institute, was set upon by at least four hundred anti-GMO activists, who stormed through armed guards and tore down fences, invading the plot and ripping up rice plants one by one. Video footage has appeared on Filipino television:

Immediately following the attack, IRRI released several statements, including a video featuring their Deputy Director for Communications and Partnership, Dr. Bruce Tolentino, explaining the importance of the research and assuring viewers that the research will continue.

Support for IRRI and the Golden Rice research poured out from researchers and scientists world-wide following the attack.

Dr. Michael Purugganan, plant geneticist and Dean of Science at NYU  challenged the conspiracy theories promoted by the protesters and addressed popular GMO myths, including those about Golden Rice:

The truth is, in developing Golden Rice, geneticists have inserted only three genes into rice DNA to allow it to make vitamin A. Three genes out of the more than 30,000 genes present in a rice plant.  And the genes they inserted to make the vitamin are not some weird manufactured material, but are also found in squash, carrots and melons.

Golden Rice is a genetically modified strain of rice developed in 1993 by a consortium of government and independent scientists to combat the growing problem of vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries. It produces beta carotene, a major source of dietary vitamin A and an essential nutrient for eyesight and overall health. Researchers were preparing to submit the Golden Rice strain for biosafety evaluations in the coming weeks.

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The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. The viewpoint is the author’s own. The GLP’s goal is to stimulate constructive discourse on challenging science issues.

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