Greenpeace's greatest crime

In the 20-odd years GM crops have been grown, there have been no documented human health effects

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THERE are about eight million reasons why Greenpeace should be charged with a crime against humanity.

That’s the number of people, all of them children, who have died as a result of vitamin A deficiency and could have been saved if Greenpeace had not blocked their access to golden rice. Many more have become blind.

Golden rice, named for its yellow appearance similar to saffron rice, has been genetically modified to contain beta-carotene, the source of vitamin A. Regular white rice does not provide this vital nutrient and with three billion people reliant on rice, there are many cases of deficiency. A study reported in the British medical journal The Lancet estimates that, in total, vitamin A deficiency kills 668,000 children under the age of five each year.

A single bowl of golden rice can supply 60 per cent of a child's daily requirement of vitamin A.

In a few months it will be available for planting to farmers in the Philippines. Bangladesh and Indonesia have indicated they are ready to accept golden rice in the wake of the Philippines' decision and other nations, including India, are considering planting it.

Golden rice could have been grown as long ago as 1999, but its development and cultivation have been vehemently opposed by campaigners who have flatly refused to accept that it could deliver enough vitamin A and who argued that it would turn farmers in the developing world into tools of global capitalism.

Chief among these campaigners has been Greenpeace.

In fact, all rights to golden rice were relinquished long ago and nobody, apart from farmers, will make money out of it. But that is not enough for Greenpeace. In their view, once you start allowing genetically modified (GM) crops, even free ones that save lives, it’s a downhill slide.

Even now its opposition is continuing. In its latest statement, Greenpeace says golden rice is “neither needed nor necessary,” and calls instead for supplementation and fortification, which are described as “cost-effective".

Apparently this means handing out vitamin pills.

Just a few months ago some researchers published a nutritional study showing the beta-carotene in golden rice is easily absorbed. They carried out the study among children in China. Greenpeace immediately called it a scandal and accused the researchers of using the children as guinea pigs. The Chinese government reacted by sacking the three Chinese co-authors of the study.

Greenpeace now calls golden rice a “failure,” because it “has been in development for almost 20 years and has still not made any impact on the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency".

That failure is due almost entirely to relentless opposition to GM foods by Greenpeace and other well off Westerners far removed from the risks of actual vitamin A deficiency.

In the 20-odd years in which GM crops have been grown, there have been no documented human health effects from them. Even the oft-repeated claim of harm to Monarch butterflies has been shown to be negligible.

So finally golden rice is set to be grown in countries where it will save lives. But for the eight million children who died from vitamin A deficiency while it was coming, it is too late.

A crime against humanity is defined by Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to include extermination when knowingly committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population. An attack might include denial of life-saving measures.

Greenpeace has been openly denying the benefits of golden rice for at least 15 years, with utter disregard for the science and in full knowledge of the impact of vitamin A deficiency.

The consequences have been catastrophic - and it is time Greenpeace was held accountable.

  • David Leyonhjelm has been an agribusiness consultant for 25 years. He may be contacted at
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    14/03/2013 5:06:47 AM

    Hear!Hear! Greenpeace has absolutely nothing to do with 'green' or 'peace'. It works from and entirely political-philosophical basis and ignores information and evidence that doesn't suits its beliefs.
    Dirty Redneck
    14/03/2013 5:28:15 AM

    These greenypeaces of idiocy are the same fruit loops that call carbon dioxide a pollutant. Just ban them as subversive terrorists that are a hindrance to the human race.
    Shelley Holmden
    14/03/2013 5:53:26 AM

    Sensationalist reporting. Mostly I am horrified by Greenpeace's actions which are a brand of terrorism. The human deaths are caused by more than denied access to golden rice. Look at the BIG picture. GM Crops aren't the answer, research is incomplete on effects to people and indeed the environmental aspects.Food security will not be enhanced with seed being "owned" by a few companies in the world. That actually threatens food security. This is causing problems already in the US with Monsanto. Also, I have a feeling that putting Vit A into rice may be a bit like adding vitamins to Coco Pops
    14/03/2013 6:57:41 AM

    Shelley Holmden may just be a Fruit Loop who needs a feed of Golden Rice. Just like the Greenpeaces they work on myths to promote their cause which in most cases have no bearing on their own lives which is lived on modern technology. Most greenies have a mobile phone, a car, electricity and running water either pumped or from a scheme. If they were true to their word they would live in the bush without these ammenities. No that would be to hard on these softies.
    Beef girl CQ
    14/03/2013 7:12:39 AM

    Well said MM. Shelley, if GM crops aren't the answer, then what is? How on earth are we as food producers in the developed world operating on extremely tight margins ever expected to go even part way towards feeding the world's ever increasing population? Unfortunately we aren't rolling in cash to further develop property and invest heavily in extension. You have a right to oppose GM crops but please put forward sensible options so that your argument is constructive rather than blatantly negative.
    X Ag Socialist
    14/03/2013 7:51:40 AM

    Also, I have a feeling that putting Vit A into rice may be a bit like adding vitamins to Coco Pops Posted by Shelley Holmden, 14/03/2013 5:53:26 AM That is easily the stupidest feeling you ever have had Shelley.
    14/03/2013 11:53:28 AM

    Yet again DL provides no references for his claims, you may want to read what the developer of Golden Rice has to say here: -info/topics/goldenrice/criticism .html Or a critique of Golden Rice promoters claims here: 1130-golden-rice-qcould-save-a-mi llion-kids-a-yearq Again, with links to the sources so you can judge the information for yourself.
    john from tamworth
    14/03/2013 3:04:02 PM

    This is not the first time Greenpeace has been accused of crimes against humanity.IN 2001 Ingo Potrykus,one of the two German inventors of golden rice who had been under personal attack by Greenpeace for years cited the WHO research showing 600,000 children under the age of 5 died annually from lack of vitamin A.
    Shelley Holmden
    15/03/2013 6:37:43 AM

    I well understand tight margins, being a farmer myself. I truly understand why farmers want to grow a crop that will offer a return. I say that GM crops aren't the answer because I don't believe that seed should be controlled. We are seeing situations in the US of farmers being sued for "saving seed" which has been contaminated by a neighbours GM crop and is deemed to be GM seed. In the future will you be able to afford the price that the manufacter of that GM seed charges? I see agriculture becoming so controlled that we will indeed end up "puppets" - we are fast heading there now.
    Shelley Holmden
    15/03/2013 6:51:21 AM

    Very interesting to see that those posting that I'm a Fruit Loop cannot put a proper name to their post. I am not a Greenpeace supporter and made that clear at the start. HOWEVER to blame them for the deaths due to people being denied golden rice is sensationalist. So the ONLY answer to stop people in those countries dying from Vit A defiency lies with golden rice? Sounds like an ad for golden rice to me. Death or golden rice - come buy golden rice? If that observation makes me a Fruit Loop - then I'm happy being one. Please wake up to the propoganda and have some personal discernment.
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    Agribuzz with David LeyonhjelmCommentary, news and analysis with agribusiness consultant David Leyonhjelm. Email David at


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