The latest flag to bring the question into focus happened earlier this summer when the Philippines became the first country to approve Golden Rice for production and human consumption.
Golden Rice technology was licensed to Syngenta 20 years ago, and it was looked at as a development in genetic modification that was ground breaking.
GMO had typically been production-oriented breakthroughs, such as a crop being glyphosate tolerant, which helped farmers with weed control options, and of course the company selling the herbicide.
Golden Rice was different as it was a variety of rice which provides people eating it with increased vitamin A, which is a problem in rice-heavy diets. Globally, tens-of-millions of children are deficient, and countless annual deaths.
It was a development which one might have expected to be readily adopted, much as glyphosate tolerant canola swept across the Canadian Prairies, but with a direct benefit to those consuming the rice. It could actually save lives.
The story here has been a general boon to canola production, but, not so for Golden Rice.
Groups, led by the likes of Greenpeace, have lobbied against Golden Rice which ultimately has cost lives.
The success of GMO canola, and its track record of safety, speaks to the technology not being the bugaboo some might suggest.
To oppose GMO in general, is short-sighted based on the science, but when it has allowed a development which could help alleviate a rather significant health issue, it is simply put – ridiculous.
Unfortunately, we often fear new things. There were those who rallied against milk pasteurization after all. But, imagine a world without milk being pasteurized?
Certainly, not all science is fool proof, but it is still our best bet for positive development.
While we need to be careful in what is approved, Golden Rice taking nearly 20-years to be adopted in its first country speaks to far too much rhetoric and political wrangling over studying the science and adopting it for a very good reason – the health of consumers.
As much as we need to study science advancements, we need to study the source of the voices of dissent which increasingly seem more ‘politically’ motivated than having real concerns about product safety.
There needs always to be an eye to ensuring the population of our world is fed, and that those people are kept as healthy as new science will allow.