An angry mob of anti-GMO Luddites in the Philippines pillaged an experimental crop of Vitamin A-rich Golden Rice, but as Mark Lynas reports, their supporters spun it into propaganda and said it was a spontaneous action by farmers.
The nature of the attack was widely misreported, from the New York Times to New Scientist to BBC News, based on false claims by the activists. But then anti-GMO activists often lie. In support of the vandals, Greenpeace has claimed that there are health concerns about the genetically modified rice. In fact there is no evidence of risk, and the destruction of this field trial could lead to needless deaths.
What's more, the stakes are incredibly high:
Although some anti-GMO activists dismiss the public health problem of vitamin A deficiency to bolster their case, the medical community agrees that it is a major killer, comparable in scale to malaria, HIV/AIDS, or tuberculosis. The World Health Organization estimates that 250,000 to 500,000 children become blind each year because of a lack of vitamin A in their diets, and half of them die within 12 months.
The need to resort to lies to win support should be a red flag that one is on the wrong side of an issue. I'm reminded of the masked anti-globalization protesters who pretend the bandannas over their faces have nothing to do with concealing their identity when they start a riot.
Once again, the combination of utilitarianism and ignorance is leading self-righteous people to do something they know is wrong - lying to the public - because they mistakenly believe their actions will make the world a better place. In reality they are breaking their own moral codes in a manner that harms the poor of the world. No one gains from this, but plenty of people lose.