The Science and Technology Committee’s report blames Europe’s precautionary GMO regulation for preventing the adoption of GM crops in the UK, Europe, and the developing world. The pro-GMO Science Media Centre publicised the report with a welcoming selection of quotes from GMO advocates. For example, Johnjoe McFadden, professor of molecular genetics at the University of Surrey, offered the emotive claim that “The cost of the eco lobby’s opposition to GMO Golden Rice has been about 1.4m life years lost last decade in India alone”.
McFadden’s quote, with its blatant disregard for facts, sets the tone for the report itself. In reality, the IRRI, the body responsible for rolling out GMO Golden Rice, admitted that the crop failed its field trials and hasn’t been proven safe to eat or effective in alleviating vitamin A deficiency in malnourished people. All these basic research and development problems, as the IRRI said, will cause further delays in making Golden Rice available. So to claim that green lobby’s opposition to GMO Golden Rice has cost even one life is a lie. On the contrary, the real crime against humanity consists in pouring further resources into GMO Golden Rice at the expense of successful and readily available alternatives that require only modest funding and political will to expand.
A more critical view of the Select Committee’s report came from Dr Rupert Read, reader in philosophy at the University of East Anglia. Dr Read condemned the report’s “shocking ignorance of scientific logic and the nature of risk” and said it confused “inconclusive evidence of harm from GMOs with conclusive evidence of safety”. The risk expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb was more blunt, calling the report “an insult to science”. The analysis below gives just a few examples of how the report sells science short and puts public health at risk.