The Body Count of Rice Red Tape

This is nothing less than disgraceful.

Matt Ridley on the Copenhagen Consensus, Rice and Red Tape – The evidence for micronutrients has been getting stronger. Studies from Guatemala, following up children for 30 years, find that good early nutrition not only combats stunting and increases intelligence but, says Dr. Lomborg, “also translates into higher education and substantially higher (23.8%) incomes in adult life, which not only matters to the individuals but also starts a virtuous circle.”

Vitamin A deficiency affects the immune system, leading to illness and frequently to blindness. It probably causes more deaths than malaria, HIV or tuberculosis, killing as many people every single day as the Fukushima tsunami. It can be solved by eating green vegetables and meat, but for many poor Asians, who can afford only rice, that remains an impossible dream. To deal with the problem, “biofortification” with genetically modified food plants is 1/10th as costly as dietary supplements.

“Golden rice”—with two extra genes to make beta-carotene, the raw material for vitamin A—was a technical triumph, identical to ordinary rice except in color. Painstaking negotiations led to companies waiving their patent rights so the plant could be grown and regrown free by anybody.

Yet today, 14 years later, it still has not been licensed to growers anywhere in the world. The reason is regulatory red tape deliberately imposed to appease the opponents of genetic modification, which Adrian Dubock, head of the golden rice project, describes as “a witch-hunt for suspected theoretical environmental problems…[because] many activist NGOs thought that genetically engineered crops should be opposed as part of their anti-globalization agenda.”

Related links:
There is no serious evidence that GMOs are harmful — Marginal Revolution