Opponents of third world GM crops are 'wicked', says Environment Secretary Owen Paterson

 

Environmental groups fighting against the use of GM crops in Africa and Asia are “wicked” and potentially condemning millions of people to a premature death, the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, says today.

In the strongest attack yet on the anti-GM lobby Mr Paterson told The Independent that NGOs such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth that oppose GM technology were “casting a dark shadow over attempts to feed the world”.

And he backed an open letter signed by a group of eminent international scientists calling for the rapid rollout of vitamin A-enhanced rice to help prevent the cause of up to a third of the world’s child deaths.

“It’s just disgusting that little children are allowed to go blind and die because of a hang-up by a small number of people about this technology,” he said. “I feel really strongly about it. I think what they do is absolutely wicked.” Mr Paterson also used the interview to defend the Government’s badger cull, to prevent bovine TB, and criticise animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA that have opposed it.

“I cannot understand anyone wanting to tolerate this disgusting disease,” he said. “I find it incomprehensible that these badger groups don’t see that this is a horrendous disease for the badgers themselves.”

His comments on GM reflect the increasing concern of African and Asian Governments as well as scientists at the influence of Western NGOs in opposing GM crops in the third world. In August, a crop of “golden rice” that been developed by scientists to combat vitamin A deficiency was destroyed by 400 protesters two weeks before being submitted for a safety evaluation.

In their open letter to the respected American journal Science, 11 leading academics, including two Nobel laureates and the president emeritus of the US National Academy of Sciences, blamed Western NGOs for stoking up opposition to such technological advances.

“If ever there was a clear-cut cause for outrage, it is the concerted campaign by Greenpeace and other nongovernmental organisations, as well as by individuals, against golden rice,” they wrote.

Scientists believe that golden rice, which has been developed with charitable funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, could help save the lives of around 670,000 children who die each year from Vitamin A deficiency and another 350,000 who go blind.

But Greenpeace and other environmental groups claim such claims are misleading and “oversimplifying the actual problems in combating vitamin A deficiency”. The programme they argue is “diverting attention from other, more effective solutions”.

In his interview, Mr Paterson said that while any individual advances in GM technology had to be based upon science and proved to be safe but there was no evidence to justify knee-jerk opposition to GM cultivation.

Although Mr Paterson did not pick out specific groups for criticism both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have been vocal in their opposition to GM as well as some African offshoots of development charities such as ActionAid. In a recent newsletter ActionAid Uganda claimed that “eating such unnatural food could pose unique health risks to humans”.

But Mr Paterson said there was no scientific basis for such scare mongering. “There are 17 million farmers, farming 170 million hectares which is 12 per cent of the world’s arable area, seven times the surface area of the UK [with GM] and no one has ever brought me a single case of a health problem,” he said.

“That cannot be said for other forms of farming. When you think that golden rice has been developed by philanthropists and could have a dramatic impact on children who are going blind from Vitamin A deficiency or dying from Vitamin A deficiency it is absolutely wicked that these environmental groups oppose it. There is no other word for it.”

A spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth said they did not believe that the benefits of golden rice had been proven and suggested that other conventional food supplements could be more effective in tackling Vitamin A deficiency.

She added that the groups opposition to GM was based on science and warned that it was a technology where the “genie could not be put back in the bottle”.

A spokeswoman for ActionAid in the UK said while they had been a member of the “five-year freeze campaign” the charity was not now campaigning on GM.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
A speech made by the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister urging women not to laugh in public in order to preserve morality has sparked a backlash on social media from women posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at his remarks.
GALLERYWhy are Turkish women having a chuckle at the government's expense?
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN KS1 Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Qualified and experi...

KS2 Teacher

£21588 - £31552 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Exceptional teacher ...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to be part ...

Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are currently recruitin...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star