Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Think You Know Greenpeace? Look Again

An urgent public health crisis exists. An effective, humanitarian response is available. But rather than pitching in and helping to save lives, Greenpeace is attacking the aid workers.


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The Arctic Sunrise is a Greenpeace vessel. Last month, its crew tweeted the following: “BREAKING: we’ve got 4 boats in the water heading towards Gazprom’s Arctic rig. We’re going to try and stop the drilling. #savethearctic.”

Greenpeace says it was engaging in “peaceful protest.” But peaceful protest is about moral persuasion. It does not encompass intimidation and coercion – in which you swarm an industrial oil rig, board that rig without authorization, and physically bring its activities to a halt – all the while placing other people’s lives at risk.

Soon afterward, Russia arrested the 30-person crew and seized the Greenpeace vessel. I have no idea whether Russia’s prosecution of the activists as pirates rests on firm ground. What I do know is that the Arctic Sunrise’s Twitter feed is now replete with references to “30 days of injustice.”

If you thought that civil disobedience was about deliberately crossing a line and then facing the consequences with dignity – in order to emphasize whatever point your protest is about – think again. The Greenpeace kids make it
sound as though they were going about their private affairs, minding their own business, and then suddenly awoke in a rat-infested prison cell. Oh, the injustice.

Before signing any petitions expressing your solidarity with the “Arctic 30,” it’s worth spending 20 minutes learning about the kind of organization Greenpeace has become. When it was founded here in Canada back in the early 1970s, it stood for certain ideals. But that was more than 40 years ago and things have changed.

One of the people concerned about those changes is Patrick Moore. In 1971, he was on board the very first Greenpeace vessel when it undertook its first ocean-based protest. As a Greenpeace website tells it:

The group organised a boat, the Phyllis Cormack, and set sail to Amchitka to “bear witness” (a Quaker tradition of silent protest) to [a US military] nuclear test. [bold added]

Fifteen years later, Moore and Greenpeace parted ways. (See his essay Why I Left Greenpeace and his book, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout).

Earlier this month, a national newspaper published an article by him titled By opposing Golden Rice, Greenpeace defies its own values – and harms children. It’s a difficult piece to read and even more difficult to assimilate.

Some ideas are so at odds with what we think we know about the world, they bounce right off our brains. They just don’t penetrate. If they did, we’d be required to rearrange a good deal of our mental furniture – which is uncomfortable and bothersome – and, after all, we’re busy people.

But what Moore has to say about Greenpeace’s stance on Golden Rice is important. Because the lives of millions of children hang in the balance. Really.

According to the World Health Organization,

Vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in more than half of all countries, especially in Africa and South-East Asia, hitting hardest young children and pregnant women in low-income countries.

…An estimated 250 000 to 500 000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight. [bold added]

Moore explains that impoverished people in impoverished nations often “eat little more than a cup of rice each day.” Ordinary rice contains no beta carotene, “the essential nutrient that we make into vitamin A.” As a result, two “humanitarian scientists, Dr. Ingo Potrykus and Prof. Peter Beyer, used their knowledge of genetics to create Golden Rice, a variety of rice that contains beta carotene.”

For more than a decade, Greenpeace has campaigned against this life-saving measure. In Moore’s words, this is because the rice has been genetically modified and “they can’t seem to imagine that even one beneficial crop might result from this technique.”

In other words, Greenpeace has taken a position on genetically modified foods. To Greenpeace personnel and sympathizers, that position is more important than millions of human lives. Poor pregnant women living in misery – who cares? Innocent children being struck blind and perishing soon afterward?  Whatever.

It’s hard to believe, but that really is the position of Greenpeace in 2013.

An urgent public health crisis exists. An effective, humanitarian response is available. But rather than pitching in and helping to deliver Golden Rice to the world’s most vulnerable, Greenpeace is attacking the aid workers.



See also Bjorn Lomborg’s recent article, Trashing rice, killing children and another, bearing the subtitleVitamin A deficiency has killed 8 million kids in the last 12 years.”

Climate activist Mark Lynas has also written a hard-hitting piece about this matter: The True Story About Who Destroyed a Genetically Modified Rice Crop.

Slate, meanwhile, has interviewed one of the inventors of Golden Rice, Ingo Potrykus: Is Opposition to Golden Rice’Wicked’?

The Allow Golden Rice Now website is also worth checking out


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