Agroecology, not Golden Rice, is the solution to malnutrition

The Stop Golden Rice Network, of which PAN Asia Pacific is a convenor, held a protest action against the field testing of Golden Rice in the town of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, Philippines last August 5, 2019.

Press Statement

PAN Asia Pacific joins organisations around the world in commemorating the International Day of Action Against Golden Rice, at a crucial time when the genetically-modified “Vitamin A” rice is being field tested and is about to be released in two Asian countries, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Six years ago today, more than 400 farmers, youth and consumers uprooted Golden Rice being field tested in the province of Camarines Sur, Philippines. This courageous act sent a strong message to agrochemical companies, corporate-driven research institutions, and governments that the people reject genetically-modified crops that threaten health, environment, livelihoods and food sovereignty. But it seems that despite widespread opposition, proponents of Golden Rice are determined to push this hazardous and unnecessary crop, primarily designed for profit-making in the deceptive guise of solving malnutrition.

A 2018 study from India reiterates findings from previous studies that the beta-carotene content from Golden Rice is negligible, and degrades at a fast rate. Various estimates suggest that an individual would have to eat several kilos of Golden Rice per day to meet the recommended daily intake of Vitamin A. Furthermore, for beta-carotene to be converted into Vitamin A, fat or oil needs to be present in the meal. This means that malnourished populations who are targets for Golden Rice consumption cannot effectively absorb its nutrients.

PAN Asia Pacific believes that healthy and nutritious food is best produced from agroecological systems that are free from hazardous pesticides and gene modification technology, and by communities of food producers that are free from corporate control. Even the High-Level Panel of Experts for Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security, in a recent report, has recommended agroecological approaches to transform global food an agricultural systems, which have failed to address hunger and malnutrition. It acknowledges that modern biotechnologies are largely considered in conflict with “core agroecological principles associated with ecology, democratic governance and sociocultural diversity.”

It bears pointing out that the same agrochemical companies that promote the commercialisation of Golden Rice are responsible for the rise in global hunger and malnutrition. Traditional diets in Asia, for instance, used to be naturally rich in Vitamin A, as farmers are able to grow vegetables alongside their rice fields. Since the introduction of monocultures and chemical-intensive farming, they no longer have access to locally-grown safe and nutritious food. They have become poorer and more indebted, as their income only goes to purchasing seeds and inputs from agrochemical companies. The introduction of Golden Rice will worsen this corporate dependency and lack of food self-sufficiency.

PAN Asia Pacific calls on farmers, consumers, and health and food safety advocates throughout the world to resist Golden Rice. Despite having been repeatedly exposed as a fraudulent means to combat malnutrition, Golden Rice continues to be legitimized by corporate-driven research and lobbying efforts.  If we do not act urgently, Golden Rice will soon wreak havoc to the lives of millions of farmers in Bangladesh and the Philippines—farmers who could instead be supported to shift to agroecological approaches that are seen even by international experts as the real solution to hunger and malnutrition.###

Reference: Terence Lopez, PAN Asia Pacific Campaign Officer, terence.lopez@panap.net

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