Not long after tasting the first cultured beef burger (aka Google Burger, Franken Burger, lab-grown burger), and just a few days after declaring, only half-jokingly, on NPR’s Science Friday that I am the Neil Armstrong of lab meat, a friend asked me a very good question.
If not lab beef, then what?
In other words, if I was a professional high-profile, highly-symbolic eater — if I had to be the chance of being the Neil Armstrong of another food — what would it be?
That was, refreshingly, a no brainer.
Yes, if ever I get another chance to eat on a stage, with hundreds of television cameras watching — it would definitely be to eat a heaping bowl of golden rice. I’d get a chef to fry up vegetable golden rice in a wok and then I would, pause pregnantly, and say the line that I chickened out on saying on August 5 on London. “One small bite for man… One giant bite for mankind.”
If you are one of the few TofT readers who never heard the long, tortured saga of golden rice, here is a good story “Golden Rice, Lifesaver,” in the New York Times. For more extensive information take a look this backgrounder from the International Rice Research Institute or from the The Golden Rice Project.
I got a chance to throw in my .025 cents for golden rice last month. And, in the Time piece 11 Foods That Are Changing the World, the reporter quoted a line from the conclusion of The Taste of Tomorrow:
“Savoring the slowest food shouldn’t be viewed as at odds with championing lab-engineered vitamin-A enhanced rice that could save children from blindness. Pairing [ those foods] is not an incompatible, ethically confused choice.”
The Time blurb does hint at golden rice’s potential — citing an American Society for Nutrition study that found that one cup of golden rice daily could provide 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A. But what the piece doesn’t say is that —although there is likely no crop in existence today that could have the potential life-saving impact of golden rice— there are plenty of people who are fighting, jihadistly (my new word) to prevent its release — such as Greenpeace and these anti-GMO activists in the Philippines who destroyed a field trial. For more, on the intensity of the anti-golden rice movement read Bjorn Lomborg in Slate —The Deadly Opposition to Genetically Modified Food.
Opponents may legitimately argue that there are more effective ways of delivering desperately needed beta carotene to people in rice-subsisting parts of South East Asia. But even if there are better ways — even if golden rice isn’t a single bullet cure— there is not a shred of credible evidence that it poses any human health or environmental risk. In short, as it’s morally indefensible to do what these activists are doing — destroying a crop that could save lives.
Here’s a petition that has received thousands of signatures over the past months that I hope you’ll read — and sign — and then encourage your friends to sign.