February 13 – The impending release of Golden Rice in Bangladesh will signal the surge of more genetically modified food threatening local and traditional agriculture systems, asserted Stop Golden Rice Network (SGRN), an Asia wide farmers’, consumers’ and activists network asserted.
According to SGRN, a network of more than 30 organizations in South and Southeast Asia, the genetically modified Golden Rice will not address the issue of Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) rather create more problems for the poor. The fundamental, underlying cause of these deficiencies is undiversified, low quality diet that tangled with unavailability and inaccessibility of diversified food especially among low income family that cannot be fix with techno-fixes like Golden Rice.
“Proponents are using Golden Rice not as solution to micronutrient deficiency, but as a marketing tool for other GMOs that will only benefit the agrochemical companies that develop them,” said Cris Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG and lead convenor of SGRN. “Promoted as a ‘humanitarian’ project, Golden Rice will try to condition the acceptance of the people to unsafe and unnecessary crops.”
Despite having a near-insignificant amount of beta-carotene, Golden Rice is heralded as the solution to VAD prevalent among children and women in developing countries such as Bangladesh and the Philippines. In its 2018 approval, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) concluded that “the level of beta-carotene in Golden Rice is too low to warrant a nutrient content claim.” Sweet potato that can even be grown in non-arable highlands of Bangladesh has almost 50 times higher beta-carotene level compared to Golden Rice.
“The Ministry of Agriculture in Bangladesh cites the safety approvals of Golden Rice from US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and expect people to accept Golden Rice based from that merit,” said Shibli Anowar of the Labour Resource Center (LRC) Bangladesh. “Yet they ignore this glaring admission of the potential failure of Golden Rice and knowingly put at stake the health and the lives of our children and mothers.”
LRC, along with Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Bangladesh Bhumihin Samity, Bangladesh Kishani Sabha and Bangladesh Adivasi Samity are holding a human chain and demonstration today at the National Press Club in Dhaka to express their apprehensions with the planned release of Golden Rice.
“There are plenty of vegetables and fruits in our country which are rich in Vitamin A, especially yellow and green vegetables and fruits,” added Anowar. “There is no need for Golden Rice.”
Golden Rice is also slated to be field-tested in the Philippines, while recent reports indicate that it will be widely propagated in Bangladesh soon. However, concerns remain on the lack of credible and independent safety studies, transparency and public participation. Regulatory processes are flawed and appear to lean on accommodating and facilitating the approvals of Golden Rice rather than serving to ensure the safety of the public and the environment.
A strategy to introduce more GMOs
A 2018 CGIAR document shows the various crops that have been biofortified to express vitamins and nutrients and the target countries where it will be released. These include Golden Rice which is expected to be commercialized this 2019 in Bangladesh. And following in the pipeline high-zinc rice are planned to be release in 2020 along with few other biofortified crops such as vitamin A sweet potato, zinc wheat and iron-rich lentils.
“Ultimately, the CGIAR aims for releasing its 3-in-1 transgenic rice that is supposedly high in Vitamin A, iron and zinc,” said Kartini Samon, Researcher from GRAIN. “This could further push for public acceptance to genetically modified crops and erode our food diversity and our local and traditional seeds and increase corporate control to our agriculture system.”
“It is a business strategy which will wipe out the farmers’ seeds and be replaced with commercial ones that are still untested and have the potential to produce long-term problems in agriculture,” said Panerio. “The Golden Rice Trojan Horse must be stopped at all costs.”
“Farmers’ seeds, land and rights are being snatched away because multinational companies want farmers to be dependent on them for seeds,” said Anowar. “As a result, the process of preserving and producing the own seeds of the farmers will be disrupted. Farmers will lose their sovereignty over traditional seeds.”
“The release of Golden Rice and other GMO crops in a country rich in fertile and biodiversity like Bangladesh will bring nothing but destruction of farmers and agriculture.”
The Stop Golden Rice Network stresses that Golden Rice is a simplistic solution to the complex problem of hunger and malnutrition. “Farmers from the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and other rice-growing countries are in solidarity with the Bangladesh farmers on rejecting the commercialization plan of Golden Rice. Poverty and genuine development must be addressed to ensure that the people have access to diversified, safe and healthy food, and sustainable livelihood. We must resist Golden Rice together as a global community and assert our food sovereignty.” #
Labour Resource Center
Lead Convenor, Stop Golden Rice Network