Industry consultant pushes Asian acceptance of GM rice (22/11/2005)

Recently Prof David Miller took issue with a Reuters article that claimed GMOs would win acceptance in Africa - "Africa seen accepting GMO crops more in future".

Now here's one from Reuters saying GM rice will win acceptance in Asia. And, guess what? It suffers from exactly the faults that Prof Miller pointed out to Reuters with regard to their Africa piece.

In that case the Reuters journalist failed to clarify that the source of his story - Florence Wambugu - was not simply "a Kenyan biotech expert" who headed a "non-governmental organisation". In reality, both Wambugu and her lobby group Africa Harvest have significant corporate connections - connections, in fact, to exactly the corporations that Wambugu claimed in the article were not driving GM projects in Africa.

In the article below Gurdev Khush is identified simply as a former Green Revolution plant breeder and consultant to the International Rice Research Insitute (IRRI). What the article fails to tell you is that Khush is also a consultant to the GM bio-pharmaceutical campany Ventria Bioscience, which has been controversially, and largely unsuccessfully, pushing for GM pharma rice trials in the US.

The article also fails to explain IRRI's major investment in developing GM rice, as well as in trialling Golden Rice. IRRI is also involved in the US$90 million programme to "improve" grain with micronutrients, known as HarvestPlus or the Challenge Program on Biofortification.

In fact, the IRRI's work on GM rice began as far back as the early 1990s and it has developed plans and resources for releasing GM rice varieties across much of Asia. (Laying the Molecular Foundations of GM Rice Across Asia)

The IRRI also houses the SE Asia Centre of ISAAA, the main conduit of industry PR and "technology transfer" to developing countries. The ISAAA enjoys multi-million dollar backing from Bayer, Cargill, Dow, Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta etc.

All of which might help to explain why Khush and the IRRI might be so keen to find reasons for GM rice acceptance.

Population boom pushes Asia to accept GMO rice
By Dolly Aglay

MANILA (Reuters) - Opposition to genetically modified (GMO) rice in Asia is likely to dissipate in the next 5 to 7 years as the region struggles to feed its growing population, a senior scientist said.

Gurdev Singh Khush, a consultant at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), said opposition by environmental groups and the tedious regulatory process in getting approvals for GM crops have delayed the release of GM rice in the region.

But Khush said he expected GM rice to follow the path of GMO corn, which was eventually commercialized starting in the Philippines in 2002, despite protests by groups like Greenpeace.

"Similarly rice will also be approved someday," Khush, often referred to as one of the fathers of the 1960s green revolution for his work developing high-yielding rice varieties, told Reuters on the sidelines of a rice conference in Manila.

"It will be adopted particularly in Asia because there is a food security problem," he said. "My feeling is, in the next 5 to 7 years, this opposition will disappear."

Greenpeace and other groups have stepped up protests against the Philippine government's plan to push biotech crops, saying they threaten consumer health and the environment.

The Philippines is not the only nation whose plans have suffered setbacks. China is also facing hurdles and is unlikely to approve a transgenic variety of rice this year.

The opposition to GMO food crops is much stronger than for cotton and feed crops such as corn. Last year, Monsanto Co. dropped plans to introduce the world's first GMO wheat, after worldwide protests.


China, India and the Philippines are pushing research on a few varieties of GMO rice containing the BT gene, which is resistant to the corn borer pest, the leading destroyer of corn crops in Asia.

Khush said he expected BT rice to be commercialized in Asia in the next couple of years.

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