The topic of genetically modified food has long been a point of contention when it comes to the fight to end global hunger. And malnutrition. In 2014, in perhaps the starkest example of the dissonance that exists between scientists and the general public, a Pew poll found that just 37 percent of adults in the US believed GMOs were safe to consume, while 88 percent of researches from the American Association for the advancement of Science supported the practice of genetically modified foods.
Now, 109 Nobel laureates—most of whom were awarded their distinctions in physics, chemistry and medicine—have written a letter to Greenpeace, urging the environmental organization to cease its opposition of GMOs.
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 letter reads. Led by Richard J. Roberts, the winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the laureates unveiled the letter at a press conference on Thursday. “[Greenpeace and other organizations] have misrepresented their risks, benefits, and impacts, and supported the criminal destruction of approved field trials and research projects.”
According to the New York Times, the debate centers around the fundamental properties of GMOs. Supports believe the practice is healthy for consumption, are less damaging to the environment, and deliver important nutrients to men, women, and children in poor regions in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Much of the current conversation has revolved around Golden Rice, which uses manipulated genes from bacteria and corn, but also contains beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A. Opponents of biotechnology, like Greenpeace, believe the combinations of genes, which do not occur organically nature, will contaminate other crops and not truly solve the global crisis of malnutrition. Instead, Greenpeace believes “diverse, healthy diets,” are the answer, according to the Times.
“Corporations are overhyping ‘Golden’ rice to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops,” Greenpeace wrote in a statement. “This costly experiment has failed to produce results for the last 20 years and diverted attention from methods that already work. Rather than invest in this overpriced public relations exercise, we need to address malnutrition through a more diverse diet, equitable access to food and eco-agriculture.”
Still, while the debate continues between the laureates and Greenpeace, the general public is often left feeling misinformed.
“Despite broadly similar views about the overall place of science in America, citizens and scientists often see science-related issues through different sets of eyes,” the 2014 Pew poll reads. “There are large differences in their views across a host of issues.”
[via New York Times]