The Risk-Monger


Dear Kumi,

I know you are a person who wishes to portray a resolute strength of character, whether it is in your friendship with Nelson Mandela or your struggle against apartheid (from Oxford) or your taking over the leadership of Greenpeace at this important turning point in the organisation’s history. But history will judge your greatness ultimately on the depth of your moral fibre and courage to do what is right. I am writing to ask you to respect the clear voice of science on GMOs and restore a certain level of credibility to your organisation.

I have long argued that rejection of GMOs is not a scientific position but an eco-religious obsession and the continued resistance and obstructionism has ethical consequences. I have accused your organisation’s position and actions against Golden Rice (in its goal to address the scourge of Vitamin A Deficiency and the hundreds of thousands of children it kills every year) as a crime against humanity. I am not alone.

No doubt you have seen the recent Panorama news programme entitled GM Food – Cultivating Fear where the former head of Greenpeace UK, Stephen Tindale, who had led your anti-GMO campaigns in the UK, stated the following:

“The overwhelming majority of scientists think that it (GM) is safe. It is, in my view, unacceptable, morally unacceptable, to stand out against these new technologies. I worry for Greenpeace and the other green groups because they could, by taking such a hard line on GM, be seen to be putting ideology before the need for humanitarian action.”

Now before you direct your followers to personally attack Mr Tindale (probably by using the M word), read carefully what he said. You are putting ideology in front of lives and development and this is morally unacceptable.

In the same programme, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission accuses NGOs like yours, correctly, of making things up on GMOs to advance campaigns. Your organisation’s position on GMOs is becoming untenable and the credibility of Greenpeace as a movement is suffering greatly from your continual denial of facts, evidence and science. Winning a campaign (as your PR machine is highly capable of doing) while losing respect, members and good leaders is indeed a hollow victory.

Your own science apologist, Doug Parr, stated that if Greenpeace is wrong on GMOs, you will merely have held up the profits to shareholders of multinationals for a couple years, and then wondered how bad would that be if there were to be real dangers of GMOs. Well Kumi, it has been two decades that you have not been right on GMOs, and it is not only profits to shareholders you have been killing, but children from Vitamin A Deficiency. Maybe, Kumi, you should listen to other scientists?

The science is clear that GMOs provide great benefits to consumers, society, food security and poor populations with little risk. Mainstream science has answered all of your concocted fears over the last two decades. You have been left fighting yesterday’s campaigns while conjuring unnecessary fear among vulnerable populations. And for what? You and your teams should be fighting tomorrow’s issues and not handcuffing global agriculture with 18th century technologies as it attempts to address the needs of feeding a growing population. A leader with moral fibre would serve as a beacon of hope; instead you are becoming an anchor of intransigence and Luddite-ism.

I understand that you are trying to keep a sinking ship afloat as the factions are tearing Greenpeace apart from the inside. But now is the time to show leadership and strength of character and not to hide behind yesterday’s issues. Cut out the internal rot that is killing your reputation (Greenpeace had done it before on the whales). Recognise that continuing to campaign against GMOs, against the science and against the well-being of so many impoverished people is indeed morally bankrupt. A true leader understands that courageous decisions are not always the easy ones but that moral strength is indicative of character – something Greenpeace volunteers are desperately searching for in their leader.

You have an important opportunity to right many wrongs with a mere moment of honesty. Greenpeace has had a poor track record for dialogue. You could correct that by going to visit these GMO researchers and simply listen to them (especially those at the International Rice Research Institute) – they will welcome you. Instead you listen to your lone scientist, Dr Parr, who is not very good at articulating why exactly you have bloodied your reputation over this debacle.

What if, tomorrow, you declare that Greenpeace will review its position on GMOs (you don’t have to accept all of them, but at least accept the great potential value of biotechnology and the right of people in countries like Bangladesh to have access to them)? The world will not stop turning. But your loss of credibility within the scientific community may stop. The continual leakage of Greenpeace directors with a conscience may stop. Your decline in funding may stop.

And yes, my contempt for you and your organisation will stop!

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