Thursday, October 23, 2014
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Příležitost pro zlatou rýži

SÃO PAULO – Po dvanácti letech průtahů způsobených odpůrci geneticky modifikovaných (GM) potravin se na Filipínách konečně začne pěstovat takzvaná „zlatá rýže“ obsahující vitamin A. Během těchto dvanácti let zemřelo na celém světě přibližně osm milionů dětí na nedostatek vitaminu A. Nenesou za to částečnou zodpovědnost i odpůrci GM potravin?

Zlatá rýže představuje nejvýznamnější příklad v celosvětovém sporu o GM potraviny, v němž technologie s určitými riziky, ale neuvěřitelným potenciálem naráží na odpor aktivistů bojujících pro vlastní dobrý pocit. Na rýži jako základ jídelníčku jsou odkázány tři miliardy lidí, přičemž deseti procentům z tohoto počtu hrozí nedostatek vitaminu A. Ten podle Světové zdravotnické organizace způsobuje každoročně oslepnutí 250 000 až 500 000 dětí. Polovina těchto dětí do jednoho roku zemře. Studie zveřejněná v britském lékařském časopise Lancet odhaduje, že nedostatek vitaminu A zapříčiní každý rok smrt 668 000 dětí ve věku do pěti let.

Navzdory těmto ztrátám na životech se však bojovníci proti GM potravinám – od Greenpeace po Naomi Kleinovou – vysmívají snaze využít zlatou rýži v boji proti nedostatku vitaminu A. Indická ekologická aktivistka a poradkyně tamní vlády Vandana Šivaová označila zlatou rýži za „podvod, který hlad a podvýživu neřeší, nýbrž způsobuje“.

New York Times Magazinepřinesl v roce 2001 zprávu, že člověk by musel „sníst téměř sedm kilogramů vařené zlaté rýže denně“, aby získal dostatek vitaminu A. Údaj, který se tehdy jevil jako zveličený, je dnes prokazatelně mylný. Dvě nedávné studie zveřejněné v časopise American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ukazují, že pouhých 50 gramů zlaté rýže dokáže poskytnout 60% doporučené denní dávky vitaminu A. Autoři ukazují, že pro zajištění vitaminu A pro děti je zlatá rýže ještě lepší než špenát.

Odpůrci tvrdí, že existují lepší způsoby, jak bojovat s nedostatkem vitaminu A. Greenpeace ve svém nejnovějším prohlášení uvádí, že zlatá rýže „není potřebná ani nutná“, a místo toho vyzývá k doplňování a obohacování stravy vitaminem A, kteréžto metody označuje za „cenově efektivní“.

Jistě, rozdávání vitaminových tablet nebo obohacování základních potravin vitaminem A mohou situaci změnit. Nejsou to však trvale udržitelná řešení nedostatku tohoto vitaminu. Obě metody jsou sice cenově efektivní, avšak nedávno zveřejněné odhady naznačují, že zlatá rýže je mnohem efektivnější.

Doplňkové programy stojí 4300 dolarů za každý zachráněný život v Indii, zatímco programy obohacování vyjdou přibližně na 2700 dolarů za každý zachráněný život. V obou případech jde o skvělá čísla. Zlatá rýže by však stála pouhých 100 dolarů za každý život zachráněný před nedostatkem vitaminu A.

Stejně tak se tvrdí, že lidé zlatou rýži nepřijmou, protože většina Asiatů se vyhýbá hnědé rýži. Hnědá rýže má však výrazně odlišnou chuť a v horkém podnebí se snadno kazí. Mnoho asijských pokrmů má navíc již tak žlutou barvu díky šafránu, annattu, bixinu a kurkumě. Lidé, nikoliv Greenpeace, by měli rozhodnout o tom, zda pro sebe a své děti rýži bohatou na vitamin A přijmou.

Nejparadoxnější je sebenaplňující se kritika, k níž se dnes mnozí aktivisté uchylují. Greenpeace označuje zlatou rýži za „neúspěch“, protože „se vyvíjí už téměř 20 let a stále nemá žádný vliv na prevalenci nedostatku vitaminu A“. Jak dal ovšem jasně najevo vědec Ingo Potrykus, který zlatou rýži vyšlechtil, za tento neúspěch může téměř výlučně nesmiřitelný odpor vůči GM potravinám – často ze strany bohatých a dobrými úmysly vedených obyvatel Západu, kteří jsou od rizik skutečného nedostatku vitaminu A notně odtržení.

Regulace zboží a služeb v zájmu veřejného zdraví je nesporně dobrá myšlenka; vždy je však nutné poměřit ji s potenciálními náklady – v tomto případě s cenou za neposkytnutí dalšího vitaminu A osmi milionům dětí během uplynulých dvanácti let.

Pro ilustraci uveďme, že kdyby se současná regulace GM potravin uplatnila i na geneticky neupravené potraviny, musel by se zakázat prodej brambor a rajčat, které mohou obsahovat jedovaté glykoalkaloidy, dále celeru obsahujícího karcinogenní psoraleny, rebarbory a špenátu (kyselina šťavelová) a také manioku, jenž sytí zhruba půl miliardy lidí, ale obsahuje jedovaté kyanogenní alkaloidy. Terčem zákazu by se staly také potraviny jako sója, pšenice, mléko, vajíčka, měkkýši, korýši, ryby, sezam, ořechy a kiwi, poněvadž mohou vyvolávat alergie.

Na tomto místě stojí za to připomenout, že neexistují žádné doložené dopady GM potravin na lidské zdraví. Mnoho aktivistů však poukazuje na jiné účinky. Šivaová například stále opakuje rozšířenou historku, podle níž GM kukuřice obsahující toxin Bt zabíjí monarchy stěhovavé. Několik vědecky recenzovaných studií však v podstatě dospělo k závěru, že „dopad Bt kukuřičného pylu ze současných komerčně křížených odrůd na populaci monarchů stěhovavých je zanedbatelný“.

Greenpeace a mnoho dalších tvrdí, že GM potraviny pouze umožňují velkým firmám, jako je Monsanto, získat téměř monopolní postavení. Tím však zapřahají vůz před koně: nadvláda velkých společností je do jisté míry odrazem aktivismu proti GM potravinám, kvůli němuž je schvalovací proces tak dlouhý a nákladný, že dotáhnout ho do konce si mohou dovolit jen bohaté firmy dodávající farmářům ze zemí prvního světa.

A konečně se často uvádí, že GM plodiny znamenají dražší semena a méně peněz pro farmáře. Farmáři se však mohou rozhodnout. Více než pět milionů pěstitelů bavlny v Indii houfně přešlo na GM bavlnu, protože ta jim zajišťuje vyšší čisté příjmy. Ano, semena jsou dražší, ale zvýšení produkce tyto dodatečné náklady vyvažuje.

Žádná technologie samozřejmě není bez chyb, takže regulační dohled je užitečný. Stálo by však za to dívat se na věci z širší perspektivy. V roce 2010 dospěla Evropská komise po zhodnocení 25 let výzkumu geneticky modifikovaných organismů (GMO) k závěru, že „k dnešnímu dni neexistuje žádný vědecký důkaz, který by dával GMO do souvislosti s vyššími riziky pro životní prostředí nebo pro potravinovou a výživovou bezpečnost v porovnání s konvenčními rostlinami a organismy“.

Nyní se zlatá rýže konečně dostane na Filipíny; později se její pěstování očekává v Bangladéši a Indonésii. Pro osm milionů dětí však bylo čekání příliš dlouhé.

Greenpeace zůstává věrná svému stylu a už dnes protestuje, že „filipínské děti by se mohly stát budoucími pokusnými králíky při výzkumu ‚zlaté rýže‘“. Oněm 4,4 milionům filipínských dětí, které trpí nedostatkem vitaminu A, to možná tolik vadit nebude.

Z angličtiny přeložil Jiří Kobělka.

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  1. CommentedPaul Gregory Ahearn

    This classic debate between GMO, Monsanto issues and improving nutrition of humanity is very nicely presented by Professor Lomborg. The farm industry has been very uneasy to allow Monsanto and others to uniquely control their seed stock; and that body of I.T. law really needs both challenge and amending legislation. However, improved nutrition to over 4 million Fillipino children is slam dunk GOOD --- end the debate, GMO science wins and protect the family/corporate farms both. Without the economic wellness of the farm community; our entire world will suffer. Do NOT bite the hand that feeds you !!! :):):)

  2. CommentedBill Thomas

    Lomborg shilling for the corporations as usual.

    The Golden Rice Hoax. "In order to meet the full needs of 750 micrograms of vitamin A from rice, an adult would have to consume 2 kg 272g of rice per day. This implies that one family member would consume the entire family ration of 10 kg. from the PDS in 4 days to meet vitamin A needs through "Golden rice"." http://online.sfsu.edu/~rone/GEessays/goldenricehoax.html

  3. CommentedInderpreet Singh

    Mr. Lomborg,

    while I appreciate your concern for the millions of lives at risk due to Vitamin A deficiency, I cannot disagree with you more. However, my biggest concern is not that you are advocating for the adoption a GM crop variety. An even bigger concern is that a well-meaning intellectual like yourself who is in a position of "power" and "influence" is so far removed from the reality on the ground and carries a very abstract understanding of the real issues in relation to an extremely complex subject as modifying the genetic code of a naturally existing substance and claiming it to be good for humanity and nature. It's noticeable how one abstract point of view about something complex like GM gets propagated from one intellectual to another without much critical thinking or even attention to the real problems and trends on the ground.

    India, the country that I come from, has been growing food and feeding its people sustainably for over 4000 years in ways that not only sustained but enhanced the natural fertility of soil. Then came along the so called 'Green Revolution' on the pretense that millions are going to die of famine. So we were forced to let go of the "traditional" and "out-dated" ways of farming and adopt "modern" techniques such as intensive irrigation, fertilizer and pesticide inputs. No body bothered to ask the question - "how come a country that has been able to sustainably grow food and feed it's people for over 40 centuries has come to the brink of famines?". 35 years after the Green Revolution started, yes the yields of our grains have increased but levels of hunger at a historical high, levels of poverty amongst the smallholding farmers are at a historical high, and our soil systems have lost the capacity to produce food without the excessive doses of chemical inputs. Who's the winner? The fertilizer and the chemical inputs industry. Thanks in no measure to the resilience of the farming communities that they are realizing this and making efforts to revive the land by shunning chemical inputs and reverting back to their traditional knowledge systems of agriculture and food production.

    And here again, we hear the same argument - we have to introduce this 'Golden Rice' because if we do not, millions will die. The answer is obvious to the question as to what is the primary objective of a private corporation - to maximize profits for its shareholders or to save millions of lives and improve the nutrition and well being of people.

    Mr. Lomborg, you may be surprised to know that India used to grow more than 200'000 (yes, that's is two hundred thousand) varieties of rice before the Green Revolution. All of these varieties were bred by farmers on the fields and developed to suit myriads of local climates and conditions. Not only that, many varieties of rice were bred and developed to have certain medicinal properties. Practically all of these varieties are now replaced by a handful of so called high-yield varieties, and the traditional ones are now sitting either in the seed banks of agricultural universities or of the International Rice Research Institute (many of these varieties were illegally procured by the IRRI from local Indian universities).

    The point is that obviously there is a whole lot more to the GM debate. So, Mr. Lomborg, please make an effort and do some research, travel, visit the Phillipines, visit India, meet with farmers, ask them about the issues they are facing, make an effort to understand the historical context of agriculture and then form your opinion. Please do not just repeat the same mistake that many intellectuals and scholars have become so good at - quoting each other and pushing for a certain agenda just because it's the easier thing to do.

  4. CommentedJeffrey Scofield

    Drawing attention to the near monopoly power of companies like Monsanto is definitely not putting the cart before the horse.  The rise of fertilizer and chemical companies came about with help of the petroleum industry and patent law abuse.  If you follow the money throughout history and through the mergers, you would notice the impetus comes from these companies - most recently using political money to embed corporate lawyers in the legal system. 

    Have a highly regulated GM industry, but there is no acceptable rational behind patenting life. That's the can of worms that Mr. Lomberg intentionally left closed. Greenpeace did not lobby politicians to allow the patenting of life (or for that matter patent monopolies) and Mr. Lomberg's deliberate omission of this key factor contradicts his argument. The fact that the GM industry - which has become synonymous with the fertilizer and pesticide industry - has extended this technology to seed sterilization demonstrates the enormous waste this industry has intentionally engineered.

    Perhaps Bjørn could trace the evolution of the agribusiness industry in detail along with mergers, political spending, judicial appointments, patenting, etc.  How much of that came from Greenpeace? Of all the corporatist lawyers on the Supreme Court, how many were endorsed by Greenpeace? How much lobbying did they do to get those appointments? If the patent laws granted to living organisms didn't exist, how much money would be invested in this technology? Did Greenpeace establish the agribusiness model or set up the subsidies for wealthy corporate farms that are monopolistic, both horizontally and vertically? Little credence can be given to Bjørn's claim that Greenpeace's activities made these companies as collusive/monopolistic as they have become.

    The people of the Philippines have many choices. They can choose more perfect information.  They can choose to reject patent law originating from foreign corporations. They can choose to innovate and invest in their own GM technologies.  They may even seek research from foreign universities. They can choose to diversify their crops for a wide variety of ecological reasons.  They can also choose to invest in alternative methods of nutrition, understanding the costs can be offset by a more diverse and competitive market, void of rent seeking abuses.

  5. CommentedNitin Pandit

    Given the huge potential to tap inefficiencies in the agricultural system, i.e., potential to provide food, and of good practices (http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2013/feb/16/india-rice-farmers-revolution?CMP=twt_gu), the debate over who to blame for taking sides over GM seems as unnecessary as GM foods themselves.

  6. CommentedLeo Arouet

    In total disagreement. Genetically modified foods have unintended long-term. If you want to fight malnutrition, it can be done, but that depends on rich countries to commit to the cause, but not say that the solution is the genetically modified food. Is this a joke or what? And who benefits from its implementation?

  7. CommentedBhagirath Choudhary

    The most trusted source of data, as correctly referred in Lomborg's article comes from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Philippines. If you r really interested in peer-reviewed papers and authentic information on golden rice browse IRRI golden rice page : http://www.irri.org/goldenrice/
    I understand Golden rice would be made available in varietal background by respective Govt funded public sector institutes in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia and India. Enriching crops with nutritional traits is the most cost effective, timely and desirable way to reach those most vulnerable and malnourished women and children, often left out of various fortification schemes. The big moral question is how long they be denied of this golden opportunity?

      CommentedInderpreet Singh

      Mr. Choudhary, if you are really interested in understanding the work of IRRI, please check out the book 'Oryza Nirvana' - which reviews the birth and evolution of IRRI in the context of rice in the Phillipines and Asia.

  8. CommentedP Jacob

    Mr. Lomborg, once again, writes from myopic thinking. Health is not simply a business of cost effectiveness. I strongly recommend Mr. Lomborg looks deeper into the genetically modified debate before drawing such simplistic conclusions. Rice is a staple daily diet (often the only food) for many cultures. Fortifying natural rice with anything can risk many reactions, allergies and even death. In this instance one should be aware that there is such a thing as Vitamin A overdose... There is a great danger of creating even greater problems by the use of this gene altered rice which may take years to show up in the human body. But then Big Pharma will reap the spoils eh? Restoring nature to a balanced biodiversity instead of taking a gmo colonial approach may serve the world much better Mr. Lomborg.
    VITAMIN A OVERDOSE, VITAMIN A TOXITY, TOO MUCH VITAMIN A http://www.antioxidantsdetective.com/vitamin-a-overdose.html
    VITAMIN A OVERDOSE SYMPTOMS, DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENTS AND CAUSES - Right Diagnosis.com http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/v/vitamin_a_overdose/intro.htm
    SIGNS OF A VITAMIN A OVERDOSE | LIVESTRONG.COM http://www.livestrong.com/article/345535-signs-of-a-vitamin-a-overdose/

      CommentedShawn Richardson

      Considering a serving of golden rice will only provide a small fraction of the daily Vitamin A requirement, Vitamin A toxicity is not really much of a concern.

  9. Commentedmoderate Guy

    "...opposition to GM foods – often by rich, well-meaning Westerners..." No, you cannot absolve them of this because they think they are "well-meaning". These people, and they are present here in the comments section are responsible for the death and crippling of millions of children. That is not "well-meaning" by any yardstick. These people are monsters and evildoers and need to be "outed" as such.

      CommentedShawn Richardson

      Larry, the PDF that you posted makes an outrageous scientific error right in the first "myth". Horizontal gene transfer does happen in nature. It has been known for quite sometime that there is horizontal gene transfer between mosses and ferns. Parasitic plants and their hosts wage a type of genetic warfare. About 25% of the cattle genome comes from viral transfers of DNA from reptiles. You may want to hold off on the condescension until you get the basic science right.

      CommentedLarry Spellman

      "moderate guy": even if you work for Monsanto or Syngenta, those are ridiculous comments. Opposition to GM food is evil? That's laughable. Start here (with peer-reviewed journal articles) to educate yourself:

      http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3.pdf

  10. CommentedVenu Madhav

    I am surprised and shocked at this spin on facts and specially the huge endorsement from Lomborg on this subject.
    There are multiple sources for Vitamin-A, millk, green leafy vegetables, carrots, eggs included; and yet the push with a circuitous approach to make it available sounds utterly ridiculous.

  11. CommentedAvraam Dectis

    "golden rice would cost just $100 for every life saved from vitamin A deficiency."
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    Why would it cost anything at all ?

    Where does the additional cost come from?

  12. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    The great issue with GM is that the technology is used for profit and control rather than for the benefit of humanity.

    We need a better GM. Research should be publicly and internationally funded with the results made freely available.

  13. CommentedFaruk Timuroglu

    You choose the question, eventually you answer as you please, in a monolog. Creating beings that aren't capable producing offspring is simply outrageous. Whole world would become depend upon you to survive. If one could acquire the power to control life on earth with vitamin A, vitamin A must be something very dangerous. Next step would be Manipulating human population on earth.

  14. Commentedjimmy rousseau

    Vendana Shiva is completely right, the problem is not a lack of foodstuffs that can be grown containing enough vitamins, the problem is poverty and education. Also so long as poor third world farmers must compete with highly mechanized 1st world farms, there is no future for any of these countries. the first world countries all developed their economies through closed borders, and now dictate to the third world that there must be free trade. these are the problems, not the lack of gmo's

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