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Bombs, Bunkers and Golden Rice
Prof. C. Kameswara Rao
Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education,
Bangalore, India
krao@vsnl.com, www.fbae.org, www.fbaeblog.org

The GM Watch honored me by the ‘Pants on Fire Award’ for the ‘Biggest pack of lies—2006’, for writing in a blog on November 3, 2006, that the Golden Rice was protected from vandalism in a bomb-proof bunker in an unspecified place in Switzerland.   I wrote much the same earlier in 2001 and 2002, but that did not attract the ire of GM Watch then. 

GM Watch has brought out the issue of the Award and the ‘biggest pack of lies’ again on November 9, 2007.  I would like my readers to know that I was neither the first nor the only one, who wrote about the extreme measures taken to protect Golden Rice.    

I quote below and provide links to four of several articles that were my sources: 

1. New York Times, November 21, 2000
2. AGNET, November, 21, 2000
3. Biotech Info, November 27, 2000

‘Golden Rice in a Grenade-Proof Greenhouse:  In a quiet village on the outskirts of Zurich, a genetically engineered strain of rice, that its creator says could save millions of children's lives, is locked up in a grenade-proof greenhouse, as if it were the Frankenstein monster.’

4. Reason online, December 6, 2000

 These groups (referring to the Institute of Science in Society, Greenpeace and some others, detailed in another part of the article) are adept at sketching out scary scenarios.  They're also known for their "decontamination" raids on biotech crop fields throughout Europe, where they rip up or vandalize genetically modified crops. Thus, the Ft. Knox treatment for golden rice. Researchers are afraid that activists will try to take the product out before it's even able to get to markets in the developing world. It's locked away in a grenade-proof greenhouse in Switzerland.’

There were some other articles published during November-December 2000 or later, one or two of which used the word ‘bomb’ and ‘bunker’ but the links are not working now.

A personal communication from Professor Ingo Potrykus, the force behind Golden Rice, avers that by 1986 opposition to plant genetic engineering in Switzerland was so fierce that the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology decided to construct a grenade poof bacteria-tight glass green house (up to biosafety level 4) for him to continue his work on transgenic crops, more particularly Bt rice and Golden Rice, without fear from physical disturbance.  This green house is still functioning since 1988, to protect the crops in development. 

This greenhouse is outside Zurich and the actual location is unspecified.  A grenade is a small bomb, hand thrown or machine discharged and an explosive-proof structure is a bunker, greenhouse or not.

December 27, 2007