Fie on Rose Prince

Let’s be serious. We shouldn’t undermine credible efforts to solve the crisis in the world’s food supply. But rarely do the inventors of these technologies seem to understand why consumers are sceptical of their ideas and motives. There are dozens of examples of food technology “big talk” that has come to nought. Scientists and biotech companies grumble that their efforts fail because of bad press – yet it is often entirely their own fault that the public are so suspicious.

This could be true. It\’s even possible that it is true. However, I wouldn\’t use this example as proof of it:

The reality is, though, that efforts of scientists to feed the world sustainably rarely see the light of day. Twenty years ago, biotechnologists created super-nutritious GM “Golden Rice,” transforming rice with genes from a daffodil to add nutritious beta carotene. It was hoped it would reduce Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. But the project has encountered many technological difficulties, while attracting fierce opposition from pressure groups.

Golden Rice has been stopped in its tracks by an unholy alliance of woo merchants and NGOs. It actually does exactly what it says on the tin, provides a Vitamin A enriched rice. No royalties are payable, there is no copyright, patent or trademark restricting use. Yet all the mastery of PR has been deployed to stop the deployment of this \”Frankenrice\”. Supported of course by just the sort of useful idiots who write food columns about organics etc. You know, the Rose Princes of this world.

16 comments on “Fie on Rose Prince

  1. You’re wrong, Worstall. GM ric is a massive potential problem for the third world. Just because it could deliver Vit A doesn’t mean it wouldn’t cause further reaching socio-economic strife down the line.

    No doubt tech fices like this one for specific problems will eventually help, pissing about with eco-systems in areas of high human population living on the edge, is not big or clever.

    There’s a bundle of cash to be made, for sure, so you’re bound to support it.

    A much better way to introduce increased Vit A into populations is education, bio diversity programs, and cheap food supplements if need be.

    If you’ve only got Vit A rice, because once you start buying the stuff, you’ll be ties into a vicious circle of reliance on the provider, that’s all you’ll end up eating.

    Vit A is toxic, and it doesn’t take much to make it so.

    So it’s the usual bollocks from you.

  2. From Arnald:

    There’s a bundle of cash to be made, for sure, so you’re bound to support it.

    If you’ve only got Vit A rice, because once you start buying the stuff, you’ll be ties into a vicious circle of reliance on the provider,

    From Tim’s article

    No royalties are payable, there is no copyright, patent or trademark restricting use.

    Now, if our resident trot had pointed out that some of the patented GM crops, precisely because they are much better than existing local strains, might drive out those local strains and create an effective monopoly supplier, he’d probably get some support. But he didn’t, did he.

    Vit A is toxic, and it doesn’t take much to make it so.

    //facepalm. Goodness. So all of these clever scientists think, “Hmm, how do we go about poisoning the poor of the world”? Or might they work on the basis “Right, what’s the usual Vitamin A deficiency and the normal dietary intake of rice. Okay, so that gives us an estimate of how much we need to add. Let’s use that as a target and see how close we get.”

    Then, being scientists, they might think “Ah, vitamin toxicity – better check we don’t start killing people. Not that we care about them, of course, being evil capitalist technocrats, but the law suits are embarrassing.”

    And, guess what they’ll find out? That dietary carotene forms, especially beta-carotene, unlike synthetic or natural retinol, are non-toxic. Because the body only converts the required amount into the necessary (but toxic) retinol.

  3. You’re wrong, Arnald. Beta-carotene is not toxic. And there is a free licence for humanitarian use of Golden Rice.

    I don’t know whether Golden Rice is the best answer to vitamin A deficiency. But I do know that if my child were at risk of death or blindness from it I’d be uninterested in ideological objections to what seems to be a benign solution.

  4. There’s a bundle of cash to be made, for sure, so you’re bound to support it.

    As pointed out, this isn’t true. But suppose, arguendo, that it were.

    Gosh, what a horrible, unethical thing that would be: making a profit from helping poorer people to eat more healthily. It would be far more ethical to profit from, I dunno, selling them useless tat, or selling their government weaponry, or something of that nature.

    If the most effective way for people to get better food is to provide a profit incentive to encourage lots of people to take part in the project, I’ll take that. If we’re going to start insinuating that someone here is lacking both a cardial organ and parents, or is likewise a peddler of testes, let’s be clear who it is: it’s the one who would sooner keep poor people unhealthy for the sake of ideological purity.

  5. Yep, my bad. Beta carotene is safe in itself.

    The non profit aspect is a sham, though. It isn’t a commercial product yet.

    You can bet that after critical mass takeup is reached then all manner of corporate greed will kick in.

    After all, that’s what these corps are for, hmmm, y’know?

    11 years on and the poor are still waiting. These single issue mono crops will lead to biological disaster down the line.

    Combat poverty and you’re more than half way there.

    As I said, tech will have it’s place, but not in this guise.

  6. Philip Walker. Tosh.

    The amount of money spent doing this shit, the market alone even, could have started all manner of sustainable projects to better the lives of more people than this kind of product.

    Scientists are well meaning, sure, but the drive for profit on the backs of the unfed and uneducated does not, and never will be beneficial to the human race as a whole.

    I know none of you believe in the surge of obesity and alcoholism, but it’s there for everyone to see. Peddle food n drink stuff to make stupid amounts of money and public health reduces.

    There’s no money in lentils, lots in HFCS

  7. So, in three comments from Arnald we’ve gone from “Golden rice is evil capitalist poison” to “McDonalds makes more money than charity”.

    At least he seems to have had a partial collision with a reality brick.

  8. Arnald preferring to consign millions to starvation because someone might make some money out of feeding them is akin to Richard Murphy preferring the Gates Foundation to be less philanthropic and pay more tax.

  9. Arnald

    A much better way to introduce increased Vit A into populations is education, bio diversity programs, and cheap food supplements if need be.

    If you’ve only got Vit A rice, because once you start buying the stuff, you’ll be ties into a vicious circle of reliance on the provider, that’s all you’ll end up eating.

    I see. If you have free rice strains that you can breed from, this will lock you into a vicious circle of dependence, but if you rely on rather expensive First World vitamin supplements, this will not.

    Genius.

    The non profit aspect is a sham, though. It isn’t a commercial product yet.

    So how do you know?

    You can bet that after critical mass takeup is reached then all manner of corporate greed will kick in.

    I see. Once people are growing all the free rice they want, and thus have no need for vitamin A supplements, that is when the companies will set in. Once the demand has been met and there is no more demand for their product.

    As I said, genius.

    11 years on and the poor are still waiting.

    Only because cocks like you keep obstructing their roll out. Stop it and the poor will be saved.

    These single issue mono crops will lead to biological disaster down the line.

    Ever stood in a rice paddy Arnald? Because if you have you might have noticed that the commitment to flooding your fields is also a rather strong commitment to growing crops that like two feet of water.

    Apart from rice, can anyone think of one?

    Paddies are already a strong commitment to a mono-crop. One that has been working out fairly well for Asians for thousands of years.

    Combat poverty and you’re more than half way there.

    In Britain the agricultural revolution came before the industrial. Stop getting in the way of it reaching Asia. After all, how can starved people without enough vitamin A get rich?

    Scientists are well meaning, sure, but the drive for profit on the backs of the unfed and uneducated does not, and never will be beneficial to the human race as a whole.

    It is working out fairly well for us. And Asia has experimented with alternatives to the drive for profits. They did not work out well.

    I know none of you believe in the surge of obesity and alcoholism, but it’s there for everyone to see. Peddle food n drink stuff to make stupid amounts of money and public health reduces.

    Except the obesity is probably caused by well meaning government health advisors. Telling us to eat too much carbs and not enough meat.

    There’s no money in lentils, lots in HFCS

    There’s no money in neem beans either. How is that working out?

  10. Hang on. Just noticed. After lecturing us on the evil poison that is beta-carotene, Arnald is recommending “cheap food supplements”?

    Which, in this case, would be made with the toxic retinol. Hobgoblin of small minds, I know, but can we at least have some consistency in the drivel?

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