By Patty Lovera
Every industry has its go-to PR strategies, the ones they revisit periodically out of habit or when they hit a rough patch in the news. For the biotechnology industry, their old reliable is how genetically engineered crops are going to solve some pressing social problem, like curing disease or ending global hunger. Their favorite example is golden rice. And this weekend, the New York Times ran a piece that rehashed the same old debate, wondering how anyone could possibly be opposed to this miracle crop that will supposedly save poor people around the world from vitamin A deficiency.
Unfortunately, the piece missed the point that sustainable agriculture and peasant farmer advocates have been making for years: that unleashing an unproven, unwanted technology into the food systems of developing countries won’t solve the political issues that create hunger.
We wrote about the questions that remain about whether golden rice can actually do what its supporters claim back in March, when NPR ran a similar piece about the next generation of golden rice. That piece summed it up well:
Development agencies, foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and biotech companies are investing in uncertain technological solutions to a problem that needs a more practical solution. Instead, Charles [the author of the NPR piece] should have examined how providing low-income rural families with the capacity to grow crops that provide balanced nutrition is a more effective, practical approach than asking them to spend more money for seeds that may not have better yield or bear more nutritious food. But perhaps he was too mesmerized by the so-called beauty of the golden rice to see past its false promises.
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