ActivismFoodHealthPoliticsPseudoscienceRace, Ethnicity & CultureScience

Good, Kindhearted Parents are Pro-GMO

As a parent, my worst nightmare is the thought of harm coming to my children. I cannot fathom the heartache of one of them suffering a debilitating illness. More unimaginably terrifying would be seeing the death of one of my children. As President Obama said after the Sandy Hook school shooting, “Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.  With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves — our child — is suddenly exposed to the world.”

Whenever I enter this rabbit-hole of catastrophizing, I pause and thank the universe for my family’s privileged existence. My family is healthy. We have a beautiful home. We have everything we need and a lot of what we want. We can afford to send our daughter to an excellent preschool. I have the financial and professional flexibility to work from home a few days a week and revel firsthand in my 1-year-old son’s developmental milestones.

I can only imagine how it feels to live on the edge of financial disaster, or to worry about my child’s physical well-being. Like most kindhearted and empathetic people, my heart breaks for those less fortunate. Like many self-proclaimed liberals and democrats, I’m pro-welfare, pro-social programs, and pro-affordable and government-subsidized healthcare.

This is why I simply cannot comprehend why so many liberals, selfless in so many ways, are anti-GMO. Yes, yes, I know. Corporations. But that is not a valid argument when it comes to this:

Vitamin A Deficiency Worldwide

This is a world map of the prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency based on WHO data. See that Americans? We in our cushy existence don’t have to deal with this. While we’re here marching against Monsanto, pretentiously shopping at Whole Foods, and berating Chobani for using GMO feed, many in those red and orange nations on the map are living off of less than what a serving of Chobani costs.

They are also watching their precious children–as precious to them as ours are to us–suffer from dreadful micronutrient deficiencies like VAD. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness in children, and greatly inhibits immune system function. Furthermore, VAD is a leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide.

So why is there opposition to GM rice and bananas with the potential to eradicate this horrific scourge? If you’re unfamiliar with these crops, Golden Rice and more recently “super bananas” have been modified to synthesize and accumulate beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A when metabolized by the human body. Because of the higher concentration of beta carotene (which gives modern carrots their orange hue), the color becomes yellow or orange. Populations that could benefit consume these crops as staples. For example, Indians consume large amounts of rice, and Ugandans large amounts of banana. While nutritional deficiencies cannot be eradicated without improving infrastructure and social/political issues, these engineered crops have huge potential for tangible outcomes.

So why does Greenpeace vandalize Golden Rice test fields? Why pull the race card with disingenuous drivel about the super banana being a ploy to force GMOs into a brown peoples’ market? As a “brown person,” I can honestly say that I’ve looked suffering in the malnourished eye on my regular visits to India. The nerve of using the race card to oppose these potentially life-saving GM crops is detestable. As I’ve said time and again, GM technology is safe. I urge everyone to read about the basic science and benefits of genetically engineered foods here. In the meantime ask yourself, if anti-GM proponents truly thought GMOs were unsafe, why care only about elite brands like Chobani or stores like Whole Foods? Don’t they care about the proles who can only afford Yoplait?

Yogurt, yummm

In the same speech I mentioned earlier, Barack Obama said, “This is our first task — caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.” Our society, my friends, is the whole world. Good people are their brothers’ keepers, the keepers of their sisters’ children. Let’s look past the blinders of privilege, reach above a lack of scientific awareness, and drop the empty anti-corporate ideology and see the light.

Featured image courtesy of Ben Klocek on Flickr

Kavin Senapathy

Kavin Senapathy is a mom of two, co-Executive Director of March Against Myths, public speaker, Forbes contributor and author in Madison, WI. She is also co-author of "The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari's Glass House". Follow her on Facebook and twitter @ksenapathy

Related Articles


  1. This is actually a very lazy article. First of all, I don’t think it’s good research to blatantly take from the wiki article on something. There are ways of getting to the actual information about golden rice. Anyway besides that dismissing opposition as, ya corporations, is not actually talking about the opposition. Then saying that it’s about race? I don’t know, but maybe you should look at what someone like Vandana Shiva talks about.

    I’m not against golden rice per se, I’m not against GMOs for the sake of being against GMOs. I’m against bandaid solutions for a more serious problem. Did you know in many of these counties the foods high in vitamin A are becoming inaccessible to the average citizen? Why? Because of a complicated system of economic restrictions creating the need to export food to western countries.

    Did you know sweet potatoes are a miscible beta carotene source. One of the largest producing countries of sweet potatoes in Africa is Uganda. It’s happens to be red on that map. Maybe instead of having a giant corporation put a bandaid over the problem why don’t we actually look at the source? That’s you, me and everyone else that eats foods that have been exploited from countries where the people don’t have enough to eat.

    Sorry but golden rice is not the answer. Debt forgiveness and fair trade are the first steps to getting this problem solved. This is doable, and doable within a short period of time. I appreciate the goal of golden rice, but it’s not the solution these people really need.

    1. Knitty – Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Incidentally, I will be posting soon about what Vandana Shiva and people like her are saying/doing.

    2. How is debt forgiveness and fair trade doable within a short period of time? Inequality is increasing, putting increased economic pressures on the majority of citizens worldwide, meaning that their choices become limited, and their ability to make rational choices reduced. Politically, debt forgiveness is dead on arrival, unless there is a sea change of public opinion..

      It’s great to talk about treating the symptoms vs the causes, but it’s naive to think that it would be easy to solve this problem.

  2. You do realize that after the publicity in 2000 GR received, it has yet to prove itself after 14 years, even after GR 2 (the second attempt to establish adequate levels of beta carotene in the rice) was developed. There are no adequate studies proving the safety to both humans or the environment. The WHO has already stated that giving out supplements, fortifying existing foods with vitamin A, and teaching people to grow carrots or certain leafy vegetables are, as things stand, more promising ways to fight VAD than Golden Rice. There is already a cost effective supplementation program to address VAD that is tried, tested, and true. I do honestly feel that after 14 years and no real studies as well as no deployment of the golden rice, this GM crop is simply a well planned PR plot, sorry to say. If it held true promise it would be feeding Vitamin A deficient children and saving lives by now. Its not. So no, not everyone holds the GR issue as an ‘anti-corporate ideology’. The concerns are real and valid and it seems you are the one who is lacking in scientific awareness.

Leave a Reply