The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP), and Youth for Food Sovereignty (YFS) denounce the certification issued by government regulatory bodies in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand on the supposed consumption safety of the genetically modified Golden Rice. We reiterate our opposition to the Golden Rice project of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its corporate funders such as Syngenta that stand to profit from its commercialization, for the very real threats Golden Rice poses to farmers’ livelihood, public health, and the environment.
We are alarmed by these approvals as they set the stage for the commercial production and distribution of Golden Rice in Asia, particularly in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines where rice is a staple food. We continue to challenge the false claim that Golden Rice, genetically-engineered to produce beta carotene, will help address the high incidence of Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in these rice-producing and consuming countries.
In reality, the promotion of Golden Rice is nothing but another scheme to intensify the control of agrochemical transnational corporations (TNCs) on food and agriculture by making farmers ever more dependent on their patented genetically modified seeds and expensive chemical inputs. It will only subject rice farmers to greater poverty and bankruptcy and destroy traditional rice cultivation and culture, on top of health and ecological risks.
We believe that the recent approvals of Golden Rice in the US and other rich countries are meant to influence or put additional pressure on regulatory bodies in developing countries to follow suit – especially in the Philippines and Bangladesh where IRRI’s application for Golden Rice remains pending and is strongly being challenged. It is ironic that the US and company – countries that will not host field trials and actually produce and consume Golden Rice – are even the first to give their nod. They will bear nothing of its risks and impacts. Of course, the only logical explanation is that agrochem TNCs that will profit from Golden Rice are based in these industrialized countries, most notably the US.
In 2017, IRRI submitted applications for the food and feed safety review of the Golden Rice to government regulatory bodies in Philippines, Bangladesh, Australia and New Zealand, Canada, and US. The Food Safety Australia New Zealand, Health Canada, and the United States Food and Drug Administration gave their positive evaluations in February, March, and May 2018 respectively, using local dietary benchmarks and even if it will not be cultivated or sold in their local markets.
The certifications will also pave the way to human feed testing of the Golden Rice, which is likely to take place in vulnerable populations across Asia. This will expose human health and environment to dangers already revealed by numerous scientific studies on genetically-engineered crops throughout the years. Worse, many of those used in these human trials are not even informed such as the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)-backed testing of Golden Rice on 24 Chinese children aged six to eight years old without full disclosure nor parental consent in 2012.
We repeat: there is no truth to their claim that Golden Rice will defeat VAD. Even the regulatory bodies they commissioned, including the US FDA, noted the low levels of beta carotene in Golden Rice to actually claim nutritional value. This debunks the “humanitarian” purpose they pose for its development and commercialization. Better and safer alternatives are available, if only governments support local agroecology over the profit-driven industrial agriculture dominated by corporations.
We call on our members and networks especially in Asia to be vigilant against more government approvals and unethical feed testing of the Golden Rice as well as other genetically-engineered crops. We also urge all advocates of food sovereignty to take part in the Global Day of Action against Golden Rice on August 8, and in the activities leading up to the said date. Let us persist with our efforts to stop Golden Rice, promote agroecology and protect farmers’ rights and seeds toward people’s food sovereignty! ###