GM Free Cymru

UK Government feeds taxpayers money into GM Golden Rice project

Without any debate or formal announcement, the UK government has decided to sink around £80 million over five years into the hugely controversial GM Golden Rice Project. Golden Rice is heavily promoted as a vehicle for improved intake of Vitamin A in populations where there are dietary deficiencies. The Project was heavily criticised earlier this year (1) for conducting feeding experiments on children and for seeking to dismantle GM regulatory controls in the developing world.

In the DFID / UKAid White Paper entitled "Eliminating World Poverty: Building our Common Future" it is announced that around £100 million will be spent over five years in the development of GM crops which will supposedly assist in feeding the world's poor people. One of the "best bets" which will be awarded substantial financial aid is described as "improving the vitamin content of staple crops. To develop these crops and get them into widespread use will cost around £80 million but it has the potential to help improve the nutrition of up to 670 million of the poorest people, many of them children." According to the Guardian newspaper, the money will go to the GM crop firm Syngenta, which owns the Golden Rice patents and whose "charitable" arm, the Syngenta Foundation, has had a long and somewhat questionable relationship with DFID (2). The Foundation, working with the Gates Foundation and other donors, is also involved with other GM "biofortification" projects through the project called HarvestPlus. Hilary Benn, when he was Secretary of State for International Development, was criticised by the media for the closeness of his relationship with the Syngenta Foundation, and for the revolving doors which moved officials between the Foundation and the civil service. (3)

The Golden Rice Project, which the Government now chooses to support financially, was attacked in February by 32 scientists from all over the world when it was discovered that an unidentified variety of GM Golden Rice had been fed to children in a bizarre feeding experiment under the auspices of Tufts University in the USA. The scientists accused the Golden Rice researchers of breaching the Nuremberg Code of Medical Ethics by using children (some of whom were sick) as guinea- pigs, on the grounds that the rice is inadequately described in terms of biological and biochemical makeup; has not been shown to be stable over time; has never been through a regulatory /approvals process anywhere in the world; and has never been fed to animals in controlled feeding experiments. The authors’ concerns were backed up by a large body of evidence showing that GM crops and foods produce unintended effects, which can result in damage to health.

Naturally enough, those involved in these feeding experiments reacted furiously to the criticism (4), and spokesman Dr Adrian Dubock stormed that those who sought to undermine his precious project were "degenerately immoral" and "a failed bunch of cranks." Dr Dubock's apoplectic fit caused great amusement in many quarters. More seriously, he failed to address any of the issues raised relating to the child feeding experiments, and it is now intriguing that the UK government has formally endorsed a project (5) which has received such heavy criticism from aid agencies and NGOs across the world.

Speaking for GM Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said it beggared belief that the UK government should now be wasting taxpayers' money on a substantial scale on a project which was essentially a Trojan Horse designed to give a boost to GM farming, to blur the distinction between GM and non-GM crops, and penetrate the GM regulatory defences of the developing nations. He asked: "Are Hilary Benn and Douglas Alexander so fixated on GM and biotechnology that they are oblivious to the opinions of aid workers in the field? Are they aware that this rice has never been shown to be stable and uniform, has never been through an acceptable programme of feeding experiments, and has been fed in a totally unethical fashion to sick children whose parents were not even told that it was a GM product?"



Sick children used as GM feeding trial guinea-pigs GoldenRice_english_final_ger.pdf




Golden Rice: A dangerous experiment