The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has approved $20 million in new monies toward the development of “golden rice” — an untested, highly controversial GE (genetically engineered) crop that threatens biodiversity and risks bringing economic and ecological disaster to Asia’s farms.
The leader of the Golden Rice project is Gerald Barry, previously director of research at Monsanto.
Sarojeni V. Rengam, executive director of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), has called the rice a “Trojan horse.” According to Rengam, the rice is “… a public relations stunt pulled by the agri-business corporations to garner acceptance of GE crops and food. The whole idea of GE seeds is to make money.”
Food Freedom reports:
“Golden rice is a Trojan horse for pushing through GE-friendly biosafety regulations under the guise of humanitarian aid. Once in place, these regulations open the door for the biotech industry to bring in commercial, patented GE crops; USAID and Monsanto accomplished exactly this in Kenya with their sweet potato project.”
In Thailand at least, however, a little known and unpublicized agricultural policy protects Thai rice from the risks of GMO’s. The Thai Ministry of Agriculture’s “Rice Strategy” is a master plan committed to strengthening the nation’s rice production while promoting farmers’ livelihoods and consumer confidence — which includes keeping Thai rice GMO (genetically modified organism)-free.
Adding to the risks of GE crops is Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s best-selling herbicide that is made to be partnered with GE Roundup Ready crops. According to a new report, regulators have known for years that Roundup causes birth defects.
Regulators were apparently aware as long ago as 1980 that glyphosate, the active chemical ingredient of Roundup, caused birth defects in lab animals. However, the information was not made public. Instead, regulators misled the public about glyphosate’s safety.
According to the Huffington Post:
“… [A]s recently as last year, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, the German government body dealing with the glyphosate review, told the European Commission that there was no evidence glyphosate causes birth defects …
Although glyphosate was originally due to be reviewed in 2012, the Commission decided late last year not to bring the review forward, instead delaying it until 2015. The chemical will not be reviewed under more stringent, up-to-date standards until 2030.”
Golden rice is a strain of rice genetically modified to produce beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A. It has been promoted as a way to alleviate vitamin A deficiency, which is common in developing countries where people don’t have regular access to beta-carotene-rich foods, like vegetables and fruits.
It sounds like a plausible theory, and the push to cultivate golden rice in Asia has been promoted as a noble cause that has gathered the support of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — in the form of $20 million toward development.
But it doesn’t take much digging beneath the surface to uncover the true motives of the corporations seeking to plant golden rice in the developing world, and they have much more to do with dollars and cents than they do with alleviating nutritional deficiencies. In fact, there’s reason to believe that genetically modified (GM) golden rice will do little to improve vitamin A levels in the poor — and may actually make vitamin A deficiency (VAD) worse.
Golden Rice is Not a Viable Source of Vitamin A
Your body can convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient your body needs for healthy eyesight and warding off viral infections. But, your body can only perform this conversion under certain conditions. Specifically, beta-carotene is fat-soluble, which means dietary fat is required for your body to convert it into vitamin A. But many people in developing countries eat very low-fat diets, as they simply do not have access to animal foods or other fat sources very often.
In fact, it has been suggested that malnourished people might not convert beta carotene to vitamin A efficiently, which blows the usefulness of golden rice clearly out of the water, as its intended recipients are virtually guaranteed to be malnourished.
Further, you would need to eat an unrealistic amount of rice each day — upwards of 16 pounds a day– to get the recommended amount of vitamin A. As stated in this golden rice case study from Iowa State University:
“Even if golden rice is successfully introduced … a woman would need to eat 16 lbs. of cooked rice every day in order to get sufficient Vitamin A, if golden rice were her only source of the nutrient. A child would need 12 lbs.
More realistically, three servings of 1/2 lb. cooked golden rice per day would provide only 10% of her daily Vitamin A requirement, and less than 6% if she were breast-feeding. Yet even these modest contributions are uncertain. In order to absorb beta carotene, the human body requires adequate amounts of zinc, protein and fats, elements often lacking in the diets of poor people.
Those with diarrhea – common in developing countries – are also unable to obtain vitamin A from golden rice.”
Golden Rice May Cause Vitamin A Deficiency by Thwarting Biodiversity
What people in the developing world need to receive ample dietary vitamin A is access to a diverse range of nutritious foods — including animal products like eggs, cheese and meat and vegetables such as dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes. This is the type of diet that is attained from biodiverse farming — the opposite of what will occur if golden rice is planted on a large scale.
As written in a Pesticide Action Network Asia & the Pacific (PANAP) press release:
” … it has to be emphasized that fat intake is the basic prerequisite for the absorption and utilization of beta carotene which, like Vitamin A, is fat but not water soluble, while proteins and Vitamin D enhance absorption of it. Unfortunately, the diets of families in communities where vitamin A deficiency is endemic have low fat content—mainly because they are poor and do not have access to a sufficient amount as well as a diverse enough range of food.
… In a biodiverse farm, a family would have easy access to all these [beta carotene and vitamin-A-rich foods]. But the mono-cropping agricultural technology, promoted through IRRI’s [International Rice Research Institute] Green Revolution, has to a large extent, destroyed dietary biodiversity in rural Asia, which is the main cause of malnutrition.
This has seriously aggravated VAD. In fact, the Green Revolution has caused the loss of thousands of diverse local rice varieties, which were replaced first by IRRI’s so-called ‘high yielding varieties’ and then by hybrid varieties. Many of these local varieties had special nutritional value. Golden Rice perpetuates the industrial model of agriculture and so instead of reducing VAD, it will actually contribute to worsening its rate of occurrence.”
Former Monsanto Director Leading the Golden Rice Initiative
The leader of IRRI’s Golden Rice project is Gerald Barry, the previous director of research at Monsanto. In case you are not familiar with Monsanto, they are the world leader in genetically modified crops and they have been aggressively trying to plant their seeds in nations around the world for some time now.
As reported by Netline, Monsanto and other biotech companies have collaborated with the Gates Foundation via the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to inject genetically modified crops into Africa. The Gates Foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to AGRA, and in 2006 Robert Horsch was hired for the AGRA project. Horsch was a Monsanto executive for 25 years.
In a previous Huffington Post article, Eric Holt Gimenez sums it up nicely:
“Under the guise of “sustainability” the [Gates] Foundation has been spearheading a multi-billion dollar effort to transform Africa into a GMO-friendly continent. The public relations flagship for this effort is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a massive Green Revolution project.”
It would be naive at this point to think that these collaborations are designed to solve any other problem than how to help Monsanto monopolize the world’s food supply with expensive GM seeds that have to be purchased each year and require expensive chemical treatment.
Asia is simply the next region on the roster, and this is precisely why Food Freedom called golden rice a “Trojan horse for introducing GM crops around the world:
“Golden rice is a Trojan horse for pushing through GE-friendly biosafety regulations under the guise of humanitarian aid. Once in place, these regulations open the door for the biotech industry to bring in commercial, patented GE crops.”
The alarming part is, Monsanto is apparently seeking to monopolize the world’s food supply with its toxic GM crops — and already we are beginning to see the ramifications of this dangerous approach to farming.
Regulators Knew World’s Best-Selling Herbicide Could Cause Birth Defects
A new report from Earth Open Source has revealed that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide not only causes birth defects, but industry regulators have known this for years and did nothing about it. After reviewing industry studies and regulatory documents used to approve Roundup, they noted:
- Industry (including Monsanto) has known since the 1980s that glyphosate causes malformations in experimental animals at high doses
- Industry has known since 1993 that these effects could also occur at lower and mid doses
- The German government has known since at least 1998 that glyphosate causes malformations
- The EU Commission’s expert scientific review panel knew in 1999 — and the EU Commission has known since 2002 – that glyphosate causes malformations
Residues of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide found in GM food and feed have also been linked to cell damage and even death, even at very low levels. Researchers have also found it causes membrane and DNA damage, and inhibits cell respiration.
Glyphosate is the world’s bestselling weed killer, and it’s found in more than 30 percent of all herbicides. While Roundup Ready crops can withstand the toxin because of GM genetic material from viruses and bacteria, the weed killer is thought to be contributing to Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), a deadly plant disease that causes plants to turn yellow and die.
As reported by GM expert Jeffrey Smith, numerous studies have linked glyphosate to increases in SDS, including in crops that have never been sprayed with the herbicide but were planted in a field that received an application the previous season.
The use of Roundup herbicide has increased dramatically since the GM Roundup Ready crops were introduced. In the first 13 years, American farmers sprayed an additional 383 million pounds of herbicide due to these herbicide-tolerant crops. The repeated exposures have given Mother Nature all she needs to stage her comeback, not only in the form of SDS, but also in the form of devastating superweeds.
Despite all of these glaring red flags, nothing is being done to remove this toxin from the market. As Earth Open Source reported:
“All of these concerns could be addressed by an objective review of Roundup and glyphosate … just such a review was due to take place in 201. However, shortly after the Commission was notified of the latest research showing that glyphosate and Roundup causes birth defects, it quietly passed a directive delaying the review until 2015 …
But in reality, the Commission’s slowness in preparing the new data requirements for the incoming regulation mean that glyphosate may well not be re-assessed in the light of up-to-date science until 2030. The beneficiary will be the pesticide industry; the victim will be public health.”
Why is Bill Gates Supporting Monsanto’s GM Crops?
Gates has tried to keep his ties to genetically modified seeds on the down-low, but the issue got major attention last year when Monsanto tried to inject its hybrid seeds into Haiti after a massive earthquake devastated the island. Fortunately, the Haitian farmers were too smart to fall for this devious scheme. Farmer groups criticized the Gates Foundation’s involvement, committed to burning the GM seed, and called for a march to protest Monsanto’s presence in Haiti.
Social movements around the world are pressuring their governments for a moratorium on unproven GM seeds and foods, yet theUnited States is giving Monsanto free reign, aiding and abetting their agenda, and the Gates Foundation is starting to look more and more like just another arm to further Monsanto’s reach.
In the second quarter of 2010, the Gates Foundation purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock with an estimated worth of $23.1 million, which means they have a hefty interest in the success of Monsanto’s golden rice and other initiatives.
How to Bow Out of the Madness
If you want to get involved on a global scale, you can sign PANAP’s People’s Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia, which calls upon national, regional and international policy makers to ban genetically modified rice, along with seven other actions, to “save … rice, the staple food of half the world’s population, from the greed of agrochemical transnational corporations.”
In Thailand, the Thai Ministry of Agriculture has already implemented a successful “Rice Strategy,” which bans GM rice, labeling it unnecessary and a risk to sustainable farming — and the hope is that regions around the world will soon follow suit.
On an individual level, you can get educated on GM foods, which are prevalent in your supermarket right now (virtually all processed foods contain GM ingredients, unless they are certified organic), so you can opt out of including these foods in your diet.
To start, I urge you to print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. You can also download a free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
If you’re feeling really ambitious you can order the Non-GMO Shopping Tips brochure in bulk and distribute them to the grocery stores in your area. Talk to the owner or manager and get permission to post them in their store.
For more information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of theInstitute for Responsible Technology:
- Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating
- Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods.
There are also a number of great films and lectures available, including:
- Your Milk on Drugs – Just Say No!
- Everything You Have to Know About Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods
Please, do your homework. Together, we as consumers have the power to stop the biotech industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of consumers to simply stop buying GM foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients.