ONE of the more unedifying aspects of the fight over genetically modified food has been the unbending opposition of Greenpeace and others to rice that has been modified to help prevent blindness. Golden Rice contains a precursor of vitamin A, deficiency of which blinds an estimated half a million children every year.
Opponents of the rice are not oblivious to the tragedy, but argue there are other solutions. They are correct. One has just been found effective in Uganda – a naturally bred, fortified sweet potato.
Good news, but no single solution will work everywhere. To eradicate preventable blindness, we need as many options as possible. The sweet success of the potato doesn’t mean that GM can or should be taken off the menu. So it is also good news that the latest research into Golden Rice bolsters the case for its adoption (see “Nutrient-boosted foods protect against blindness”).
In light of this, opposition to Golden Rice increasingly looks like bullheadedness rooted in a desire to halt GM at any cost. There are reasons to be wary of GM promoted by big business. But tarring a humanitarian project with the same brush is dogmatic – and wrong.