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We Don’t Need Golden Rice

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by Robert Greer

Journalist Will Saletan set the Internet afire yesterday with his long-form piece against anti-GMO activists.  A key component of his argument is that Golden Rice, which has been genetically engineered to contain Vitamin A precursors, has not been welcomed by anti-GMO crowd with open arms.  But what Saletan fails to mention is that the science is still out on whether golden rice is actually the boon it’s claimed to be. 

The best evidence we have is that the compounds in the rice are converted to Vitamin A in the human system, but this isn’t enough to say that it’s healthy — Saletan makes a lot of hay out of the fact that anti-GMO activists often can’t point to specific known harms, but instead must rely on fears of unknown future problems.  But unknown side effects are not necessarily inchoate, ad hoc rationales to oppose genetic modification, and are in fact especially salient in the realm of nutrition because of the field’s complexity. The body’s processes for gleaning nutrition from a particular food are highly complex, and depend on many different factors such as the ratios in which the nutrients are presented to the body, the form in which they greet your digestive system, and the composition of your gut biome. For example, iron is difficult for your body to assimilate properly if you’re not getting enough Vitamin Csugars in juice may be dangerous while sugars in whole fruits are not, and large numbers of people are deficient in Vitamin B12 despite getting plenty of it in their diets, for reasons that are still not entirely clear. 

Why is this important?  Because while nobody denies that balanced whole-food diets prevent negative health effects of Vitamin A deficiency, the evidence is lacking for Golden Rice: Although studies have indeed shown that some biomarkers improve upon ingestion of Golden Rice, no studies to date show that eating Golden Rice actually prevents night blindness.  Even industry mouthpieces say there are still no studies showing that Golden Rice actually combats the harms, such as night blindness, that it was intended to prevent.  So while it’s a promising start that Golden Rice consumption is associated with higher levels of serum retinol, until we have evidence that this actually leads to less night blindness, the benefits are still theoretical, and the sensible response is to Golden Rice is a studied skepticism.

Given that the jury is still out on the benefits of Golden Rice, it’s perhaps sensible that people oppose it. After all, Vitamin A is not a particularly difficult nutrient to provide: It’s common in mangoes, which are a staple where they grow in many of the places where golden rice has been pushed hard.  Although Saletan is right to note that there have been questions about the bioavailability of Vitamin A, he commits a worrisome elision: The researchers he cites only voiced concerns about the Vitamin A bioavailability in leafy greens, not in staple fruit or root crops.  

Saletan’s elision is important because fruit and root crops rich in Vitamin A are plentiful in every heavily-populated bioregion in the world.  Mangoes, oranges, yams, squash, papaya, watermelons, and cantaloupes are all rich in Vitamin A, and these crops typically produce yields that rival or surpass GMO rice.  Virtually every significant farming culture has had hundreds of years of experience with at least one of these crops.  Moreover, even if one accepts the premise that these crops will not be consumed virtually year-round, the argument for Golden Rice still fails, because Vitamin A can be stored in the liver long enough to get people to the following season.

Nor is it true that we are compelled to grow GMO crops as a matter of yield.  A good crop of rice yields about 7,000 pounds an acre, while a good crop of mangoes on the same amount of land produces about 30,000 pounds. Oranges can yield 40,000 pounds an acre, as can watermelons. Granted, rice has twice as many calories per unit weight as mangoes and oranges, but rice would still have to be twice as productive to get as many calories as the fruit from the same amount of land. (Watermelons produce about as many calories per acre as rice.) What’s more, mangoes and oranges and watermelons have more non-calorie nutrients, and fruit trees require far less fertilizer inputs and irrigation than grain crops, do not degrade soils, and have negative instead of positive carbon footprints.  These crops are also native to the regions where Vitamin A deficiency is most prevalent. Mangoes are native to India, oranges to Southeast Asia, and watermelons to sub-Saharan West Africa. (Cantaloupes, another good source of Vitamin A, are native to East Africa.)

Of course, one can’t necessarily grow mangoes on land suited better to rice paddies, and vice versa. But first, relying on land that’s ideal for rice makes people more likely to move to flood-prone areas, and second, a lot of the areas under rice irrigation have been terraformed to work better for rice in the first place, suggesting that the areas are not necessarily inherently suited to rice production in the first place.

It’s also important to remember that even the people GMOs are supposed to help are often highly resistant to the new crops. These people have already lived through many years of “land reform” that have centralized power in the hands of elites, and they don’t like the results. Given that encouraging people to plant crops naturally-rich in Vitamin A is a strategy proven to work wonders, it makes sense to respect the responses of the people who have the most to lose.

[Image via Wikipedia.]

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80 thoughts on “We Don’t Need Golden Rice

  1. First off, much appreciate all the supporting links.

    Now, two questions:

    1) If sources of vitamin A are plentiful in the affected regions, why is there such deficiency?
    2) Of the sources listed, few are long term storable. Is there a viable way to grow & store such food sources that is better than dry store rice?

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    • Let me offer some potential (not the only) answers to your questions and shed some light on why GMO might not be as popular as expected in indigenous communities:

      1 – People are too poor to buy it – i.e. it gets exported
      2 – It would be more viable to feed local populations if local lands were not being used to bring profits to US-based IP-holders.

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    • In answer to your question 1), “If sources of vitamin A are plentiful in the affected regions, why is there such deficiency?” this is very often because the local people are no longer growing their own food crops to feed themselves and their communities. They have been forced by ill-advised “development” and “restructuring” programmes imposed by foreign and international bodies to cease growing their own food crops and to instead grow cash crops for export. So they may have, say, large expanses of rice and none of the kitchen-garden indigenous crops that used to keep them well-nourished.

      Vandana Shiva (in India) and MASIPAG (in Philippines) have done good work in explaining how much more nutritious these traditional crops are than any non-existent GMO crop. I say “non-existent” because the IRRI explained in 2014 that GMO golden rice had failed its field trials, hadn’t yet been safety tested, and wouldn’t be available for several years.

      Promoters of GMO golden rice seem to want an impoverished food model to continue by ensuring that all people will have to eat is rice, in this case an untested-for-long-term-safety GMO rice.

      Increasingly people lack access to land on which to grow crops to feed themselves. This is a political and economic problem that will not be solved by offering GM crops.

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      • So they may have, say, large expanses of rice and none of the kitchen-garden indigenous crops that used to keep them well-nourished.

        I’m very curious about the places and times you’re referring to with “used to keep them well-nourished.” Your phrasing makes it sound like malnutrition in India and the Philippines is a new thing that happened since they abandoned a system that kept everybody well fed with a wide variety of fresh, nutritious produce.

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        • Claire, (from GMWatch) knows very well the Golden Rice will help reduce vitamin A deficiency, she has no scientific evidence to support her objections.

          She is an anti-capitalist who will allow her ideology and lack of morals to let 2 million children a year to die.

          Shameful

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          • I don’t have a dog in the GMO fight, but I thought conservatives didn’t allow language like this on ACA (GOP wants to kill babies because it refuses to provide insurance).

            Were they wrong then or now?

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        • The devastating effects on nutrition of the relatively recent trend of growing cash crops for export, at the expense of ‘subsistence’ farming (which focused on keeping the immediate community nourished) are well documented. While it is not possible to generalise across many times and populations, the recognition of this principle underpins FAO programs to reintroduce kitchen gardens. Certainly no one can live healthily on rice alone. Indigenous crops are often easy to grow, pest-resistant, hardy, and provide a wide diversity of nutrients.

          Talk to older people in many less-affluent communities across the world and you will hear time and again that given access to land and seed, even people who were cash poor could eat a good and varied diet. Famines are caused by political instability/tyranny (as in the Irish potato famine), lack of access to land and seed, and poverty (people cannot afford to buy food that is available in marketplaces even in the poorest countries).

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          • Again, this is a question of local Ag policy & property rights (i.e. political), and not about the science surrounding GMOs.

            Our ability to make large scale changes to how local foreign governments choose to allocate land & other resources is much more limited than our ability to provide food aid.

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          • There has to be something about using the phrase “are well documented” without any documentation that triggers every college professor who has ever read a freshman essay to wince. It’s the classic line for sounding like you have a lot of support without actually supporting your stance. Was there really a time with, say, better child mortality rates in these communities courtesy of subsistence farming?

            Something I see that’s pretty consistent in the anti-GMO camp is the idea that everything would be better if the poor of the world went back to the good old days of subsistence farming. But looking around the world, subsistence farmers abandon subsistence farming as soon as any other option comes along, even if those options still look pretty grim to us. That should tell us that something is probably wrong with our imagined view of the noble idyllic subsistence farmer in harmony with his land.

            As for famine usually being the result of political problems, sure that’s generally true these days. But there’s a difference between famine and malnutrition. We’re talking about malnutrition here, and to varying degrees and in varying forms it happens all over the world without any needing any political machinations.

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            • Troublesome Frog: That should tell us that something is probably wrong with our imagined view of the noble idyllic subsistence farmer in harmony with his land.

              I’m convinced it’s because such advocates imagine subsistence farming to be much like gardening. Which in a way it is, although usually without modern advantages like running water, machinery, herbicides, pesticides, & fertilizers. It’s a much grimmer game when you have the break the land by hand or with livestock, haul water by bucket, slop shit for fertilizer, and rely on inconsistent pest control methods & hand weeding. And this assumes that the farmer actually knows what they are doing and has the education to make it successful (instead of being poor with minimal, if any, Ag training, no access to a library or internet for informational resources (which is OK, is suppose, since functional illiteracy is common among impoverished populations).

              And of course, should you fail to produce enough food to keep yourself & family alive because of drought or other bad weather, or disease, or voracious insects…

              Yep, just like gardening.

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              • Laura Seay talks about this in a lecture I have in the Linky queue. It was about conflict minerals and she said that a lot of activists had this notion that without the mines the locals would simply move to a not-terribly-more-unpleasant enough sort of life of subsistence farming.

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    • You sort of answered one question with the other :P Grain, easily stored for long-term, is also easily accumulated, centralized, and controlled. It’s not a nutritional technology — it’s a social control technology. No egalitarian society of gift-culture and commons has grain-based agricultural food systems.

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  2. But what do they do with all those naturally rich in Vit A crops? Sure they eat plenty of them so they don’t have an A deficiency. But can they sell the rest of the crops they grow? What else can they do with them?

    It seems like Golden Rice certainly might be one useful tool that might be chosen along with growing some of those other things.

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    • Related to this, and addressed specifically to anti-GMO folks and the OP’s author — how much accumulated scientific study on Golden Rice (or indeed any other GMO product, although I’m specifically interested in Golden Rice) would be enough to earn your blessing? What results would you need to see from such studies — and are those results within the realm of what can be reasonably anticipated?

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      • Right: we know that it produces vitamin A in the body, we know how much of the current version of golden rice people would need to eat to produce the recommended amount of vitamin A, and we know how vitamin A works. All we haven’t been able to show, because we’ve yet to produce a large enough study (in no small part thanks to the anti-GMO folks, it should be noted) showing that, with the other things you need (notably, fat), golden rice can help treat the various ailments that result from severe vitamin A deficiency.

        The “you could do it with other stuff” objection rings pretty hollow, of course, given where we’re talking about, and the sorts of food problems these places have.

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        • Ah, my apologies to the author: he writes:

          So while it’s a promising start that Golden Rice consumption is associated with higher levels of serum retinol, until we have evidence that this actually leads to less night blindness, the benefits are still theoretical, and the sensible response is to Golden Rice is a studied skepticism.

          So, although we do have studies showing increased levels of serum retinol, you’re reserving judgment until and unless a different study shows reduction in night blindness. And so we may rely upon the anti-GMO crowd to make an exception from its general policy if and when such results are actually produced?

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          • I’m not trying to ban GMOs. I just think people aren’t necessarily crazy for being sketched out by them, and that it’s reasonable to mandate labeling. If studies end up showing that Golden Rice actually alleviates the ultimate problems it was intended to fix, it might still be that it’s problematic for other reasons we didn’t even think to explore. Nutrition is super-complicated, researchers routinely overlook stuff or get stuff wrong (and are rarely in agreement even among themselves), and there are huge gravity wells of financial bias involved in GMO research. Given this context, the reflexive treatment of GMO skeptics as troglodytes really irritates me.

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            • I’m generally in favor of labeling of all sorts of things because I think consumer choice is good and informed consumption is better than uninformed consumption. However, I think that the GMO companies have a point when they resist it because it’s more likely to be used as a cudgel than to really inform people about the implications of their food choices. It goes something like this:

              Monsanto: This stuff is safe.
              Anti-GMO activist: If it’s so safe, you shouldn’t be worried about labeling it.

              [ years pass ]

              Anti-GMO activist: If this stuff is so safe, why does the government mandate labels for it? Hmmmm?

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              • doubt it…mandatory sugar labels haven’t slowed down the consumption of added sugar one bit in colonial societies. people like to know what they’re eating. if anything, i think labeling will work in the favor of GMOs over the long run, by making it more familiar and ubiquitous to the general population. that’s part of the corporate strategy: sneak it in everywhere they can while it’s unlabeld, and then when they’re ready to let the label folks have their ‘victory,’ GMOs are pretty much everywhere. Most people will just accept that they’ve been eating GMOs already, so why stop? We’re not that far from that point already. It’s a power struggle, and the corporate boys are miles ahead of the labeling folks in strategy.

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            • You complain about no actual studies on Golden Rice, and then activists like Greenpeace destroy test plots, use scare tactics and fear mongering to block any actual tests. So it comes down to “we managed to block all testing, so why haven’t you done any actual testing”? Makes sense.

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            • Nutrition is supercomplicated? God, it’s not like we’re talking neurology, kids. Yes, it’s more complicated than most physics problems I care to name, but it’s not brain surgery with white matter tracts that are superfine and 3 dimensional.

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    • I think has the right explanation: those crops are more valuable as exports and the locals can’t necessarily afford them as staples. But that’s not necessarily a problem that we want to “correct” exactly. Exporting valuable crops is good for local farmers and good for the local economy. Turning them back to subsistence by having them eat the crops instead of selling them at a profit would possibly solve a vitamin deficiency but it would also turn them back to subsistence. If an economy is growing enough rice to feed itself and selling mangoes at a profit, adding vitamin A to the rice you’re already growing instead of having to “eat your seed corn” for vitamin A seems like a win.

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      • Well yeah that is the issue that Robert is eliding. It’s nice to say they can grow traditional crops that will solve this one problem but it doesn’t answer the bigger question. Growing some mangoes might give them Vit A but also means they are subsistence farmers, with all the problems that entails. They are out of the modern economy nor can they store fruits as well as rice so there are significant problems with long term survivial.

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            • Where would you like me to start?

              By, for instance, replacing less calorie-dense traditional crops that allow for subsistence in indigenous populations with things like corn or algae designed to produce fuel, developing indigenous foraging territories into factory farms, stripping people of their livelihoods and forcing them to enter an unregulated production-based capitalist economy in order to survive…Wikipedia is a good place to start on these controversies – it’s a pretty extensive entry, containing 495 references, all about controversies with GMO: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food_controversies

              You and I can call these problems with implementation, or particular instances of asshat corporations emboldened by just another tool to add to their profit margins, but they’re being taken as par for the GMO course by some local groups and lumped together. That’s a major pr problem if we do truly believe, as Norman Borlaug did, that GMO crops have the power to save billions from starvation.

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              • I wouldn’t even call most of those problems with implementation. To the extent that they are problems, they’re generally problems that you’d have with or without GMOs. There’s a lot of conflation of side effects of the international agriculture markets with GMOs, which I agree is a perception problem but it really isn’t a GMO problem.

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                  • You lost me Chris. As TF points out those issues aren’t really with GMO’s they are with modern Ag. Also some of those controversies have proven to be overblown or inaccurate. GMO’s haven’t really caused mass starvation. Some other things have though.

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                    • By this: “The fact that GMO seems to directly cause starvation for many seems to jive with how GMO is sold as a cure for world hunger.”

                      I was talking about the perception problem that describes better than I was capable of. I don’t really think we have much of a disagreement.

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      • I’d guess the golden rice vs. mangos argument is all about shelf life. One has a long shelf life, one a short shelf life unless it’s processed into a derivative product such as dried mango or bottled juice to increase shelf life.

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          • It is awfully easy for us to hold these conversations in binaries and forget the spectrum; when it comes to hunger and farming, those conversations get particularly binary. People who are farmers, for instance, are typically perceived as industrial farmers or subsistence farmers, with nothing in the middle, yet it’s really that middle that we’re discussing; small land or lease holders.

            If the people who are actually starving — which typically is a result of either drought or displacement — have land to grow any food, they should be growing the short-shelf life, hard to transport and keep foods so vital to thriving, so the mangos, and we should take them truck loads of golden rice.

            What happens now, what disturbs, is that we get borderline people to give over growing mangos for golden rice; they stop producing the regional, fresh foods; it’s essentially bad management by the seed companies; they’re pushing crops, in the name of humanity will fostering policies that are inhumane.

            That doesn’t mean there are not places where small and industrial farms throughout the world shouldn’t grow golden rice, they probably should, and we should pay them to do it, so that we have those truck loads to deliver to people who really are starving. It’s really a management problem.

            There’s some mass migration going on right now, a lot of people driven from their homes, and without a place to go. Replacing essential local crops with commodity crops sometimes adds to this problem.

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      • I’d guess the golden rice vs. mangos argument is all about shelf life. One has a long shelf life, one a short shelf life unless it’s processed into a derivative product such as dried mango or bottled juice to increases shelf life.

        I’ve said my piece about the primary problem I see with GMO-food; it’s not GMO food, it’s round-up ready food. There is great abuse and indications that it causes a lot of health issues. But it’s not the GMO part that’s troublesome, it’s what that GMO part is for: to make the plant tolerant to a pesticide that, when the pests develop resistance, are used far beyond recommended and safe levels. I’m also sort of appalled that round-up’s being used to desiccate wheat crops just before harvest so that the seed heads all ripen at once; someone would have to show me that roundup does not contaminate the wheat ripened this way for me to be comfortable with it.

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  3. If the objection to golden rice is really “The science is still out”, though, then the solution is to do more science.

    Instead, many GMO activists seem to loudly oppose further study, even to the point of literally destroying research crops.

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      • I’d argue the anti vaccine crowd is worse in that their knuckle dragging histrionics actively threaten to resurge defeated or near defeated scourges that have plagued us for recorded history whereas anti GMO activists are primarily just slowing down progress towards new benefits. The latter are slowing forward progress but the former are literally reversing progress.

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        • In terms of badness antivax >>>>>>> anti-GMO. The science is still out on GMO in many respects, whereas the science has been in on infectious diseases for millions of years. People who are resistant to GMO are largely resistant because they see the personal upheaval caused by many GMO initiatives as directly detrimental to their well-being, or, they think that we should be as cautious with new food products as we are with, say, new drug products, or that we should at least approach some level of caution instead of putting the burden on the public health instead of business.

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  4. I strongly suspect that anti-golden rice advocates will regret leaning as heavily as they do on the idea that “maybe this particular case of beta carotene in a plant is special and won’t be as beneficial as it is in other plants, even though it converts to vitamin A as expected.” That may be the case (weirder things have happened and biology is ridiculously complex), but it seems to me that it’s very unlikely and it’s only a matter of time before we have good documented evidence that it does exactly what we expect it to. It seems more like a hope on the part of anti-GMO activists than an actual probable result.

    Much of this argument seems to be an argument against rice in general, so I’m not sure what to make of that. Rice has a lot going for it beyond calorie density. Shelf life and transportability are enormously important, especially in high poverty areas without the infrastructure to move and store watermelons. It’s not just a historical accident or mistake that a huge percentage of the world’s civilizations have used it as a staple food instead of leafy greens and fruit.

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    • I strongly suspect that anti-golden rice advocates will regret leaning as heavily as they do on the idea that “maybe this particular case of beta carotene in a plant is special and won’t be as beneficial as it is in other plants, even though it converts to vitamin A as expected.”

      I doubt it, once this objection is proven false, I imagine they’ll have no trouble confecting a new objection. “How do you know that eating it for 50 years doesn’t cause cancer / diabetes / restless leg syndrome?” They can keep moving the goalposts forever.

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      • Sadly, you’re certainly right about that. The Saletan covers the shameful amount of goalpost moving that they’ve already done. Outside of pure politics over nonsense issues, it’s rare to see the goalposts moved so far that they actually swap places with your opponent’s goalposts.

        Watching the ever changing rationale for never changing policy, I can only wonder what their real reasons are. Is it purely distrust of big agribusiness? I generally don’t trust corporations at all. At least, I don’t “trust” them to do good and moral things. I trust that they’ll behave in their own rational self interest, and that makes them predictable enough to work with and often get very good results from. I don’t get how Monsanto would be any different, but there seems to be a very real belief that Monsanto is out to do evil for evil’s sake and that they must be opposed no matter what they do, even if that means completely changing your reasons for opposing them every few years.

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    • I have been following this topic for quite a while, and it appears that the biggest fear of the anti-GMO activists is that it *WILL* work, and prove all their rhetoric and hyperbole to be wrong.

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    • It’s not an argument against rice in general, but grain-based agriculture in general. The above article, although framed against GMO rice specifically, effectively highilights some fundamental myths about grain-based agriculture. The argument the author constructs really begs the question of why grain at all? Grain, easily stored for long-term, is also easily accumulated, centralized, and controlled. It can be traded as a commodity, marking a point in human social transformation where food moved from the ever-shrinking sphere of the commons to the ever-expanding sphere of private property. As that famous war criminal Kissinger said, “control oil and you control nations; control food and you control people.” The development of grain-based agricultural food systems does not represent an advance in nutritional technology, but a step back in nutritional technology. Grains, even today, play no essential part in human nutrition excepting the cultural constructs built around them (tradition, ritual, economics, urbanization). Rather, the development of grain-based agricultural food systems represent an advance in social control technology. No egalitarian society of gift-culture and commons has grain-based agricultural food systems. Grain cultivation comprise an essential component of a slave-based society — a tool of control, one of many in a form of society constructed almost entirely from tools of control. Grains feed the poor only in the ever-increasing regions that the elite have colonized and devastated with imperialist war, agriculture, mining, urbanization, and other forms of genocide, biocide and ecocide masquerading as “economic development.”

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      • No egalitarian society of gift-culture and commons has grain-based agricultural food systems.

        This not being my area, I’m more than a bit fuzzy on what exactly an “egalitarian society of gift-culture and commons”, but my (admittedly quick) Googling leads me to believe that while what you say might be true, you fail to provide an example of a modern, first world society that fits this definition.

        In short, you need to do more work before this can be anything more than some well written woo & kookery.

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  5. So the argument against GMO’s is that the benefits aren’t as concrete as they might have been hyped? Color me mightily unimpressed. No proof that GMO’s are harmful as per normal, just a bunch of social musings (which have merit but not as arguments against GMO’s) and a light sprinkling of woo.

    The health impacts of starving are very well documented. That hasn’t stopped GMO advocates from persuading famine stricken regions to turn away food aid that may contain GMO food.

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  6. its a funny world. Those will full stomachs fight to block food from those that go to bed hungry. Those with sufficient nutrition fight to block food that will help the two billion without proper nutrition. Those with objections to GE crops have no options that are better viable choices but continue to block GE crops on every front… Its a pity.

    Dr. Borlaug said it well: I don’t see two (now three and heading towards five) billion volunteers to disappear

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  7. If I were to write an essay about how I’ve been reading up on diabetes and how I’ve come to the conclusion that people who are injecting synthetic diabetes (that used animal research to help develop!) into themselves (like heroin!) are doing harm to themselves without any measurable benefit and how we should get rid of synthetic insulin, I’d quite expect people to spend more time talking about my attitudes toward insulin than about any lifestyle changes that could address diabetes.

    Especially if I lived in a society that no longer worried about diabetes and I was talking about societies in which people were being actively harmed by diabetes.

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  8. Could you please tell me how the 35 million children in India suffering from Vitamin A deficiency, who can only afford a handful of rice a day were meant to be about to have daily feeds of mangoes, oranges, yams, squash, papaya, watermelons, and cantaloupes?

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  9. Robert,
    Calling it Night Blindness is moving the goalposts from the real world into a nice, happy First World Problems world. Shame on you for not bothering to understand the malnutrition that we’re talking about treating, before writing an article.

    Kids go blind before the age of five, because they don’t have access to enough Vitamin A. It’s a really serious problem. This isn’t some small “night blindness” issue where people might have a few more carwrecks. Most of these children turn into beggars (what else do you do with a 5 year old who can’t work??)…

    Here’s a freaking idea — read before you write:
    http://www.hki.org/our-impact/reaching-millions/saving-sight-lives-vitamin#.VazzpflViko

    Just a quick link, I’m not pulling the WHO links, but if you want to read more…

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    • Of course. It’s not MY fault most people are idiots. If the only way to harass Monstersanto is by running an anti-GMO coalition, well, boy howdy, we’ll run a freaking anti-GMO coalition.

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  10. The author reveals his bias and his closed-mindedness with this:

    Given that the jury is still out on the benefits of Golden Rice, it’s perhaps sensible that people oppose it.

    Anti-GM people get annoyed when they’re called anti-science but that quote is the definition of anti science – if we don’t know then let’s not find out. No. If the jury is still out on the benefits of Golden Rice, it’s sensible to try it out to see if it works. The author or this ridiculous article is one of those people who will oppose any type of GM no matter what, because he is against GM, and he is against GM because he is against GM. No potential benefit of GM can ever be allowed to be considered in case it gets in the way of showing that all GM is always bad. Nothing could ever change his mind.

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  11. Here are a few articles about golden rice. But since they weren’t written by the biotech industry, or their shills, we don’t have to read them, or consider what they say.

    Dr. Michael Hansen (Consumers Union, a division of Consumers Reports) debunks some of the many myths promoted about Golden Rice in “Golden Rice Myths as published here: http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/15023-golden-rice-myths

    “Editorial in Science promotes Gold Rice myths” http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/15078-editorial-in-science-promotes-golden-rice-myths

    “Golden Rice ignores the risks, the people and the real solutions”
    http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2209623/golden_rice_ignores_the_risks_the_people_and_the_real_solutions.html

    And then there is “Golden Rice Not so Golden for Tufts,“ which talks about the controversial methods used to study this grain, including human testing. http://news.sciencemag.org/asiapacific/2013/09/golden-rice-not-so-golden-tufts

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    • Pro-Tip:

      If your plea to gain engagement & exposure to alternative viewpoints &/or research involves any kind of reference to ‘shills’, ‘conspiracy’, or any kind of phrasing that implies an active effort to suppress scientific research results (without first establishing at least a plausible case that such activity is actually in play), you are not going to win any converts.

      Likewise, having the bulk of your support coming from sources that are clearly biased (like, I don’t even have to look for the bias because the source is wearing it on their sleeve) is a very ineffective way of framing your argument such that you might win converts.

      Of course, if you are just interested instead to, say, use a comment section as a way to boost page rank and hit counters, then keep at it.

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    • Three links to the same article? Is that some sort of SEO game I’m not aware of?

      I’m genuinely interested in seeing the best real arguments, but if this is it, it’s just about as weak as I thought. We have the complaint that they’re still hybridizing and trying to improve yields. That’s a great argument that they should keep working on it. It looks like they’ve dropped claims that it doesn’t yield vitamin A and replaced them with the claim that it hasn’t been proven to store well (since fresh rice was used in the studies). OK, then clearly we should go back to mangoes with their well-known infinite shelf life.

      Noting that fat was added to the test meals to improve absorption was interesting. I’m interested in seeing more data on how it works with leaner meals, but I’m still at a loss as to how that puts it at a disadvantage when compared to all of the other beta carotene sources out there. Do watermelons somehow bring fat along with them that I wasn’t aware of, or is this just a blanket statement that most produce is low in fat?

      The retinoic acid complaint is another example of the typical line of argumentation. Throw out a technical objection that, while there isn’t a really good reason to think that it’s likely, is not outside the realm possibility and then complain that there’s no data on it. Yes, it’s possible that this plant is an exception to the rule and it works nothing like a carrot, but make sure you have another objection to throw out when that Hail Mary objection turns out to be yet another nothingburger.

      Do we also know for certain that the rice is free of magnetic monopoles?

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  12. Fascinating thread. Something about this issue seems to put everyone in exactly the opposite set of arguments from normal politics.

    The generally-liberal view seems to be that science is scary, may not work, and that we know how to take care of poor people better than they do themselves.

    The generally-conservative view seems to be that direct gifts are great, that those standing in the way have blood on their hands, and that more research is always the answer.

    No deep thoughts. Just fascinating.

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