GM golden rice advocate named new Rothamsted Research boss

A scientist who has spoken out in favour of GM “golden rice” has been named as the new director of Rothamsted Research.

Achim Dobermann will take up his post at the oldest agricultural centre in the world on 1 June 2014.

He will be joining Rothamsted from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, where he is the deputy director general for research.

Prof Dobermann is an ardent supporter of golden rice, a crop genetically modified to produce vitamin A, which has undergone two years of field trials at the IRRI in the Philippines, despite vandalism at one test site.

See also: More news on GM crops

Proponents of the rice, which include former Greenpeace leader and Canadian ecologist Patrick Moore, claim that vitamin-enriched rice could prevent blindness and prevent more than 2m childhood deaths in the world’s poorest countries.

Achim DoebermannAchim Dobermann

Last October, DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson, an advocate of GM technology, branded opponents of golden rice as “wicked”.

The Philippines plans to commercialise golden rice in 2016, despite opposition from opponents, including Greenpeace, which has claimed the side effects of the technology are harmful and there were already existing solutions and programmes being implemented by the Filipino government to address vitamin A deficiency in the country.

However, in an interview with Far Eastern Agriculture last November, Prof Dobermann insisted: “Golden rice is coming. A lot of the principal development and research has been completed. At the moment, no GM rice has been officially released in any country.”

Working at IRRI his work has had a major impact in rice growing countries of Asia and other parts of the world.

During 2009-10 he coordinated the development of a new global program for rice research, the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) and served as their first director.Prof Dobermann, who is editor of the journal Global Food Security, said he was “excited” about the opportunity to help make Rothamsted an even greater research institute.

“Developing environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production will be at the core of the new global sustainable development agenda,” he added.

“With its top-notch science and multidisciplinary approach Rothamsted Research can play a major role in designing new solutions for enabling transformative changes in agricultural systems, nationally and internationally.”

Outgoing director and chief executive, Maurice Moloney, left the institute in December after four years to start a new role at Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

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