The big green killing machine: What is VAD?
This is the first in a series of occasional articles dealing with the human cost of the various policies being pushed by what I call the big green killing machine. I’ve never viewed fighting the perversion that environmentalism has become as some sort of intellectual wrestling match waged in the blogosphere. It’s a real war against a malign anti-human movement that in reality is killing people right now, this moment, this morning, afternoon, evening and night. There are real people dying the real death in the developing world because of it. Never forget this. Every time you stand up and fight eco-fascism, you’re fighting for the lives of essentially defenseless people.
VAD stands for Vitamin A Deficiency. It’s not a problem we have in the developed nations but it’s a big one in the developing world. A deficiency in vitamin A causes several direct and indirect medical problems but the most noticeable effect is on eyesight. It causes blindness and mainly in young children. Each and every year, approximately half a million children in the developing world go blind because of it.
The blindness is irreversible and half of those children die within a year of losing their eyesight.
The problem is malnourishment rather than under nourishment. There simply isn’t enough vitamin A in the available foodstuffs grown in large parts of Asia and Africa. The solution was to try using gene technology to modify a crop commonly available in the developing world so as to insert some vitamin A content. The crop chosen was rice and work began in 1992 by Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer. The work these two scientists did was not only prodigious in terms of sheer effort but technically brilliant as well. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of a Nobel Prize than them but they didn’t get one and probably never will.
They succeeded. By 2000, they had engineered a new strain of rice by splicing in a gene from a Daffodil, of all things. This gave the rice its distinctive yellow colour and is the reason for its common name, golden rice. Golden rice has something no other rice has; beta-carotene which is a provitamin. A provitamin enables the body to produce another vitamin; in this case vitamin A. Subsequent development of the strain has increased the beta-carotene content by over a factor of twenty. A small bowl of this rice will deliver all the vitamin A that a human being needs.
This rice has been tested more than any other biotechnology product ever developed and has shown no adverse effect on humans or the environment whatsoever; absolutely none and it delivers the necessary vitamin.
It has been ready for production and distribution to those people needing it for years and in all likelihood, will stay that way for more years to come. Why in the name of common humanity, isn’t it available now you may ask?
The answer is the environmental movement. The availability of golden rice, like its development, has been systematically obstructed at every turn by the green movement. The means have been legal or regulatory as well as downright illegal. Their problem is they have a zero tolerance of any biotechnology, even if it will plainly save lives today. Fanatics cannot change their minds.
At the same time, they’ve no alternative solution to VAD so in the meantime it’s business as usual for them; their hooligans will keep on uprooting test crops (while inviting the media along for the photo opportunity) and stalling golden rice as much as possible in the regulatory and legal structures. Since they also have a large influence on the disposition of foreign aid monies, this is used ruthlessly to intimidate poor countries showing any sign of introducing the crop.
If, in any country in Europe or any state in the USA or indeed any country in the developed world, half a million children were going blind each year because of a simple preventable vitamin deficiency, something would have been done about it long ago and bloody quickly too but that’s the problem, the victims are in the developing world which is well out of the way and everybody’s football to kick around anyway. Too many people think they know what’s best for them so what is ultimately a chic lifestyle choice in the developed world ends up killing people and blinding children in the developing world.
The last time we in the developed world had large numbers of VAD victims to deal with was in treating the survivors of Stalin’s gulags and Hitler’s concentration camps. Many of them suffered from night blindness, which is the first stage of VAD induced total blindness. I’ve chosen to write about one specific aspect of the harm VAD does around the world but it’s a bigger problem. The WHO estimates it effects the health of one-third of under-five children worldwide and kills 670,000 of them annually. If you want to find out more about the full effects on VAD on humans, have a read here. It’s grim stuff.
I chose VAD to begin this series of articles on the big green killing machine because the numbers involved are much smaller than in its other crimes against humanity but remember those numbers are people and in this case, predominantly young children. Each one is a family tragedy. It is an aspect of human psychology that people can relate to small numbers. Once the numbers run into the millions, it’s simply too big to empathise with. As Joseph Goebbels reputedly said, the death of six people has a bigger impact than the death of six million. Subsequent pieces will unfortunately be dealing with the murder of millions.
Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace, who subsequently resigned from the organisation in protest at the direction it had taken, called the people preventing the introduction of golden rice, “murderers”. I agree but would qualify it, they’re child murderers. If there is a Hell, I hope they burn in it.
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