More than 30 senior scientists and academics have signed an open letter condemning researchers at Tufts University (Boston) in the United States for carrying out clinical trials of genetically modified Golden Rice on adults and children.
“We are writing to express our shock and unequivocal denunciation of the experiments being conducted by your colleagues which involve the feeding of genetically modified Golden Rice to human subjects (adults and children). We are all senior scientists / academics with a professional interest in the health and environmental effects of GMOs,” begins the letter addressed to Professor Robert Russell.
Golden Rice has been produced through genetic engineering as a vitamin A-dense food product – conceived to be used in parts of the world where diets are lacking nutritionally, and vitamin A deficiencies can lead to blindness in children.
The scientists are greatly concerned that: ‘this rice, which is engineered to overproduce beta carotene, has never been tested on animals … there is an extensive medical literature showing that retinoids that can be derived from beta carotene are both toxic and cause birth defects.’
Golden Rice has created much debate over the years. Scientists who criticize Tufts’ use of the rice say that the risks of the using this variety have “woefully inadequate pre-clinical evaluation.” They claim that the genetically modified product has never been through regulatory procedures and that there is a growing body of evidence suggesting GM products can cause health problems.
Other critics, such as Greenpeace, have stated that the rice won’t resolve Vitamin A deficiencies because it will not provide enough of the vitamin to ward off malnutrition. Clare Oxborrow, from Friends of the Earth, said the problem is much more complex than: ‘trying to fix vitamin A deficiency with a narrow GM solution.’
Signatories to the letter include Slow Food Vice President and scientist Dr Vandana Shiva and well-known Canadian environmentalist Professor David Suzuki.