Press Release -- 8th January 2009
It has been revealed on the US Government Clinical trial web site (1) that a team from Tufts University is using sick children in a trial of GM "Golden Rice" which is supposed to provide a boost for those who might be suffering from Vitamin A deficiency.
The released information reveals that 72 children between the ages of 6 and 8 are involved, and that they are being used to test Vitamin A uptake from GM rice, spinach and beta-carotene in oil. Some of the children are healthy, and others are suffering from Vitamin A deficiency.
On the web site, there is no indication of the fact that Golden Rice is a GM variety, and no indication of which of several versions of Golden Rice will be fed to the children. The trials are supported by the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, and by the technology owners including Syngenta, Bayer AG, Monsanto Co, Orynova BV, and Zeneca Mogen BV. The Board is also supported by the Syngenta Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2).
It is understood that the trials were initially supposed to have taken place in China, only to be cancelled by the Chinese authorities when Greenpeace sent them relevant information about the dangers and uncertainties associated with these GM plants. The trials are therefore presumably taking place in the USA at present, following some earlier but unpublished trials with adults. These adult trials are shrouded in mystery, and may even have been illegal since Golden Rice has no regulatory approvals either in the USA or elsewhere for cultivation or use as a food. There are not even any published animal feeding trials; a planned trial in Germany involving mice was abandoned when it was discovered that the Golden Rice sample provided had less than 1% of the carotene anticipated, and that even that minute amount was reduced by 50% on cooking. Other research results are shrouded in mystery and secrecy (3).
Speaking for GM Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "It is almost unbelievable that any human feeding trials of Golden Rice should be contemplated by Tufts University and the American authorities, since this is a GM variety which is acknowledged to be very unstable and unpredictable in its behaviour, and which has no authorizations for cultivation or food use anywhere in the world. The use of children in these experiments is profoundly disturbing, since they are in no position to understand the implications or the risks to their long- term health that might arise from eating an untested GM variety. The ethical issues are even more disturbing since 36 of the children used in the trials are already suffering from poor health. The only parallel we can think of was in 1998 when Monsanto NewLeaf GM potatoes were fed to hospital patients in Moscow in order to test for "negative health effects" (4). That was utterly bizarre and unethical, but the feeding of an untested GM rice to vulnerable and sick children is absolutely unforgivable. This disgraceful trial must be stopped immediately."
Dr Brian John GM Free Cymru Tel 01239-820470
Golden Rice varieties are supposedly "enriched" and improved by the introduction of genes that express beta-carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A. There are many varieties, all bred through the use of GM techniques.
The Golden Rice Project Golden Rice is heavily promoted by the GM industry as a wonder crop incorporating "biofortification" technology. However, over a period of ten years tests have given wildly erratic results, and there are major questions over the actual amount of carotene or Vitamin A that could be taken up by people suffering from Vitamin A deficiency, and aid agencies and NGOs are broadly sceptical. Nevertheless, the GM industry flags up Golden Rice as if it is a triumph, and Syngenta and the other patent holders loudly trumpet their magnanimity in "giving" the technology to the world with no royalties or other strings attached. As part of their strategy, they have consistently attacked NGOs who have stood in their way on the grounds that they are condemning millions of poor people to ill health and starvation. Aid agencies have always argued that Golden Rice is a technical and dangerous "fix" for a non-existent problem, maintaining that funding would be much better devoted to encouraging the growing of a wider range of crops or even to the distribution of Vitamin A tablets. This is a typical industry diatribe: Golden rice, red tape Bio-fortified rice could save hundreds of thousands of lives a year, but opposition to GM crops is still preventing its approval Henry Miller, guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 October 2008 21.30 BST http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2008/oct/17/gm- crops-golden-rice
"The campaign for genetically modified rice is at the crossroads: A critical look at Golden Rice after nearly 10 years of development." By Christoph Then, January 2009 Commissioned by foodwatch in Germany