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Nobel Laureates Condemn GMO Opposition, Urge Governments to Support “Genetic Modification”

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Today, 107 Nobel Laureates have come together to call upon governments around the world to support and advance “genetic modification” technologies in agriculture and reject the fear-based campaigns opposing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that are built upon falsehoods and denial.

The Laureates released  a strongly worded statement addressed “To the Leaders of Greenpeace, the United Nations and Governments around the world.” In their words, “We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against ‘GMOs’ in general and Golden Rice in particular.”

The Laureates note, “The World Health Organization estimates that 250 million people suffer from [Vitamin A deficiency (VAD)], including 40 percent of the children under five in the developing world. Based on UNICEF statistics, a total of one to two million preventable deaths occur annually as a result of VAD, because it compromises the immune system, putting babies and children at great risk. VAD itself is the leading cause of childhood blindness globally affecting 250,000 – 500,000 children each year. Half die within 12 months of losing their eyesight.”

The Laureates continued: “We call upon Greenpeace to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general; We call upon governments of the world to reject Greenpeace’s campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general; and to do everything in their power to oppose Greenpeace’s actions and accelerate the access of farmers to all the tools of modern biology, especially seeds improved through biotechnology. Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped.” They conclude by asking, “How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a ‘crime against humanity’?”

The website accompanying the release documents the global scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs (recently reaffirmed by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, and virtually every other authoritative scientific body on the planet). It also documents the abundant and widespread environmental and economic benefits confirmed by the experience of more than 18 million farmers around the world, the vast majority of them small farmers in developing countries.

Other sections explain what GMOs are (describing them, more accurately, as a component of precision agriculture) and describe how scientists learned to make them by mimicking completely natural patterns of gene exchange found everywhere in nature. A section documents and corrects the false and misleading statements used by Greenpeace in its propaganda campaign to raise unwarranted fears and money to support its multinational organization, and the efforts of some governments to hold Greenpeace to account.

The Laureates’ website also documents former campaigners for Greenpeace and other environmental groups who examined the facts, discovered the truth, and broke with Greenpeace and other groups opposing innovation in agriculture, including Richard di Natale, Greenpeace Australia; Steven Tinsdale, Greenpeace UK; Patrick Moore, Greenpeace Canada & Greenpeace International; Mark Lynas, Greenpeace UK & the Soil Association); Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Catalogue & the Long Now Foundation; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; and Bizarro creator Dan Piraro. Additional materials provide further information from credible and independent third parties.

The organizing force behind this project is Sir Richard Roberts (Nobel Prize, 1993, Physiology or Medicine).

It is clearly past time for Greenpeace and others opposed to GMOs to follow the data and adopt a truly “green” and science-based position on genetic modification. The challenges facing society require a shift from political correctness to scientific correctness. Governments and other parties should do likewise.

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About the author

L. Val Giddings is a senior fellow at ITIF with three decades of experience in science and regulatory policy relating to biotechnology innovations in agriculture and biomedicine. He is also president and CEO of PrometheusAB, Inc., providing consulting services on biotechnology issues to governments, multilateral organizations, and industry clients. Before founding PrometheusAB, he served eight years as vice president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization and a decade as a regulatory official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Giddings received his Ph.D. in genetics and evolutionary biology from the University of Hawaii in 1980.
  • klausammann

    Thanks Val, excellent summary, The list of converts is about double the size, the ones enumerated are from the last few years. And it is is still growing, and maybe this nobel letter will help to speed up this process

  • Prof DR I.S.Dua

    Thanks Mr Val for an excellent compilation and I may add further that GM crops are as natural and safe as today’s bread wheat, and it is the moral obligation of agricultural scientists to stand up to the antiscience crowd and warn policy makers that global food insecurity will not disappear without this new technology and ignoring this reality global food insecurity would make future solutions all the more difficult to achieve
    And kindly remmber the word from the writing of Charles Darwin