Anti-GM protesters condemn millions to death, says Paterson
Minister lashes 'wicked' GM opponents for 'casting dark shadow' over efforts to feed world
OWEN PATERSON has branded opponents of genetically-modified rice "wicked" because they could be condemning millions of people in developing nations to a premature death.
In what The Independent calls his "strongest attack yet" on the anti-GM lobby, the environment secretary said organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth were "casting a dark shadow over attempts to feed the world".
Paterson also backed an open letter sent to the American journal Science by a group of eminent international scientists, which called for the "rapid rollout" of a vitamin A-enhanced rice to help prevent up to a third of the world's child deaths.
"It's just disgusting that little children are allowed to go blind and die because of a hang-up by a small number of people about this technology," Paterson told The Independent. "I feel really strongly about it. I think what they do is absolutely wicked."
The paper says Paterson's comments reflect growing concern among scientists and African and Asian governments about Western NGOs' opposition to the development of GM crops. It points out that in August a group of about 400 farmers in the Philippines destroyed a crop of 'golden rice' – a strain developed to combat vitamin A deficiency – just weeks before it was to be evaluated by scientists.
In their letter to Science, the scientists say: "If ever there was a clear-cut cause for outrage, it is the concerted campaign by Greenpeace and other nongovernmental organisations, as well as by individuals, against golden rice."
Scientists believe that golden rice could help save the lives of around 670,000 children who die each year from vitamin A deficiency and another 350,000 who go blind.
But Greenpeace and other environmental groups say such claims are misleading and oversimplify the issue, explains the paper. The GM programme, they argue, is "diverting attention from other, more effective solutions".
A spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth told The Independent that it did not believe the benefits of golden rice had been proven and conventional food supplements could be "more effective" in tackling vitamin A deficiency. ·