Health and Ethics

“Tackling hunger means tackling poverty first and foremost. GM is far from being the silver bullet it is hyped to be by those who stand to profit from its widespread introduction. Farmers in the Global South need a wide variety of support to gain access to land, resources and knowledge. Science has an important role to play but only when accompanied by the social and economic changes that are vital to bring stability and more security to farmers” (Peter Riley, campaign Director for GM Freeze)

“When the risk is high, the potential consequences devastating, and the benefits unclear, precaution is called for”(Greenpeace, 2005)

Golden Rice has yet to be tested on people and the environment causing concerns for the health and ethical social worlds. Activist groups, such as Greenpeace and GM Freeze, are lobbying together with examples of the unjust health effects this tiny rice grain brings to gain momentum and support when opposing Golden Rice. Greenpeace does not believe malnutrition will be solved by Golden Rice, and is therefore a failure (Golden Rice, 2005). It has been noted that Golden Rice does not provide enough Vitamin A, 1.6ug of vitamin A per gram of rice. You would have to consume over 3300 grams of rice to achieve you daily intake of Vitamin A. This amount would be too much for anyone living in areas that need the rice. Furthermore Vitamin A is fat soluble, so you will need fat in your diet to be able to intake the vitamin A, unfortunately for Golden Rice, adequate protein and fat are not readily available in developing nations where the grain is targeted at. Therefore it brings the debate as to whether this grain will have the health benefits it sets out to achieve.

A second debate surrounding the controversy comes from the ethical implications of introducing this rice. Is it fair to use developing nations as guinea pigs in this experiment? So far no research or tests have been done to indicate what human health effects would occur if people ate large amounts of this GM crop. Without the knowledge of possible side effects it is easy for opponents of Golden Rice to step in a slow down its creation. It could be deemed inhumane to mass produce a crop without knowing its full implications, possibly putting millions of people’s lives at risk. Furthermore, it is ethical to force this crop onto indigenous farmers changing their livelihoods and current methods of farming that they have been practicing for their entire lives. Will large companies just come in and destroy their livelihood? Greenpeace have been advocating that having a nation dependent on one staple industrial food rather than a multiple of vitamin A substances it is risks for both the countries welfare and economic situation. They believe there are better, cheaper and more sustainable solutions for the environments that come with risk free benefits.