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Laureates Send Modified Crops Letter to Greenpeace

More than a hundred Nobel laureates have signed a letter urging the environmental group Greenpeace to end its opposition and support genetically modified crops, the Washington Post reports.

The letter, which was organized by Richard Roberts, chief scientific officer of New England Biolabs and 1993 Nobel laureate in medicine or physiology, argues that modern agricultural practices will be required to meet the needs of a growing global population. It adds that number of regulatory and scientific agencies have found modified crops to be safe, both for consumption and the environment.

Indeed in a report this spring, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that there's no evidence that modified crops have harmed people or the environment.

The letter also argues that modified crops have the potential to improve people's health. In particular, the letter references Golden Rice, which was developed to combat vitamin A deficiency among poor people in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Roberts tells USA Today that he supports some of Greenpeace's other stances, but that here, "they got the message wrong." 

Greenpeace, however, says it will not change its position, USA Today reports. "There is simply no scientific consensus as to [GMO] safety," spokesperson Jason Schwartz tells the paper. "Golden Rice is not an available, let alone a proven effective food source."

At the Washington Post, Nobel laureate Randy Schekman from the University of California, Berkeley, says he finds Greenpeace's stance surprising, as the group generally supports science when it comes to climate change and vaccinations, and yet, he says, it "can be so dismissive of the general views of scientists when it comes to something as important as the world's agricultural future.