The world we live in certainly has some screwed up priorities.
As world leaders gathered in Lima, Peru for a United Nations meeting about climate change, the radical environmentalist group Greenpeace thought they would send an uplifting and inspiring message to the convention’s attendees. In the video posted below, you can see how Greenpeace members laid out large letters made of cloth saying, “Time For Change! The Future is Renewable! Greenpeace.”
Instead of being an inspirational message, however, the act managed to substantially damage a recognized ancient archaeological site in the Peruvian desert.
The site chosen by Greenpeace for this ridiculous stunt was an area of the desert that hosts ancient, man-made designs that were etched into the landscape. The etchings are estimated to be 1,000 years old and made by the Nazca civilization that once lived in the area. The desert in that area has white sand that is actually covered by this dark rock. The area is restricted and travel through it is completely restricted because one step and flip the rocks over and expose the sand. Following the stunt, there was outcry around the world and the Peruvian government is obviously — and rightfully — ticked off at Greenpeace for the stunt.
As someone holding a degree in History, I find this stunt careless, reckless, and offensive. But this is – by far – not the worst crime perpetrated by members of Greenpeace.
In part of Africa and Asia, there is an on-going crisis that causes thousands of children to go blind daily and over a million to die each year. These kids suffer from a deficiency of Vitamin A, usually because their poor diets do not contain enough Beta-carotene, which is required for the human body to produce Vitamin A. Fixing the problem by supplying the children with enough Vitamin A would cost millions of dollars.
Enter Golden Rice.
Golden Rice was created in 1999 by two scientists over at Syngenta. Scientists Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer modified a strain of rice, the primary staple in the kids’ diets, so it produces over 20 times more beta-carotene than regular rice. One bowl of Golden Rice contains 60% of the daily value of Vitamin A.
Syngenta has committed not to commercialize the gene, meaning the rice farmers in those regions can plant it without a license, save their seeds, and plant it again. In fact, Syngenta has given all rights to the rice strain to a non-profit called The Golden Rice Humanitarian Board. The Board has the right to sell the seed at the same price as non-Golden Rice seed and also supply research institutions with the seed for humanitarian efforts. By 2002, the scientific testing had been done and demonstrated the rice was safe. All that was needed was government approval. That never happened and the seeds are not yet available, thought they could become available within 1 to 3 years.
But Greenpeace won’t have any of it.
The group has taken a strong and immovable stance that Golden Rice, because it employs the use of biotechnology, is bad and harmful. Forget the kids that are being scarred or die by disease, Greenpeace refuses to consider that GMOs may actually be able to help people. As with many anti-GMO efforts, Greenpeace has spread misleading and false information that there are negative side effects of Golden Rice. The organization has spread misinformation to parents – alleging the rice will harm their children. Greenpeace supported activists that tore out testing plots in the Philippines. They have created fake media scandals, which in China ended with some Golden Rice scientists in jail.
A study published in Environment and Development Economics, determined that the efforts by groups like Greenpeace has cost 1,424,000 life years (just just lives, but “life years”) since 2002 alone.
So while the world is outraged and mourns over a few dark rocks getting flipped over by Greenpeace activists, the real loss is the countless number of children that are suffering from blindness and disease because they cannot get enough Vitamin A in their diets. That’s the real cost here. We have a solution, or at the very least a tool, that could end the suffering of these children and yet we allow Greenpeace to lie, distort, and destroy the possibility of using it.
I’ve said before that the blanket opposition to genetically modified crops is unethical, and this is a pretty darn good example of why.