Scientists are striking back at activists who destroyed genetically modified (GM) "golden rice" plants in a test field in the Philippines last week. "It is an unconscionable criminal act to destroy a field trial conducted in accordance to international safety norms," reads an online petition that has garnered nearly 2000 signatures in the past few days.
Golden rice carries two foreign genes that together produce beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. Scientists and public health advocates see golden rice helping to alleviate vitamin A deficiency, a scourge of the poor in developing countries that can lead to blindness and other health problems. But critics argue that GM food crops pose poorly understood health and environmental risks, and some have tried to halt research by destroying test plots, such as those in Philippines.
Scientists must respond to such attacks, petition organizers say. "It is important that the community come together and explain there is a scientific consensus on the safety of GM crops," says geneticist Channapatna Prakash of Tuskegee University in Alabama, who initiated the petition. He says when they reach 5000 signatures they will send the statement to policymakers and politicians in the Philippines and other countries to convince them that "they must move forward with this research."