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For Immediate Release 9 February 2001
Greenpeace demands false biotech advertising be removed from TV
(Toronto) Greenpeace is filing a complaint with Advertising Standards Canada demanding that misleading biotech industry advertisements be withdrawn from broadcast. The Council for Biotech Information's ads say that "Golden rice could help prevent blindness and infection in millions of children" but recent scientific evidence shows that this is not the case.
A Greenpeace report, released today, shows that the genetically engineered (GE) rice provides so little vitamin A that an adult would have to eat 10 pounds (dry weight) of rice a day to meet recommended allowances. A two year old child would need to eat seven pounds per day.
"It is shameful that the biotech industry is using starving children to promote a dubious product," said Michael Khoo of Greenpeace. "This isn't about solving childhood blindness, it's about solving biotech's public relations problem."
In a recent letter to Greenpeace, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, which initially funded development of the GE rice, expressed his concern that the biotech industry's promotion of vitamin A rice has "gone too far" and is misleading the public and media. He adds that "we do not consider golden rice the solution to the Vitamin A deficiency problem."
Even the scientist who developed golden rice, Dr. Ingo Potrykus, has admitted there is not a single published study showing that the human body can convert the beta-carotene in GE rice to vitamin A.
This is not the first time the biotech industry has been caught with false advertizing. In 1998, Monsanto was forced to withdraw a similar European TV commercial after leaders of 23 African countries stated to the United Nations that they "Strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations…We do not believe that such companies or gene technologies will help our farmers to produce the food that is needed in the 21st century." In Canada on October 17, 2000 development groups Oxfam and CUSO joined Greenpeace to declare that "Biotech will not solve world hunger"
In the short term, childhood blindness resulting from Vitamin A deficiency could be cheaply and effectively addressed through distribution of vitamin supplements. In the long term, sustainable agriculture and diet diversification programs must be implemented to increase access to foods naturally rich in vitamin A. Expensive, limited access solutions like GE rice exacerbate the fundamental problems of hunger and malnutrition.
For more information contact Michael Khoo @ Greenpeace: 416 597 8408x3017 or 416 569 8408 Report and letter to the ASF available @