Brian Hutchinson | 11/10/13 | Last Updated: 11/10/13 7:41 PM ET
Ben Nelms for National PostPatrick Moore stands near Greenpeace's ship 'Rainbow Warrior' in North Vancouver on Oct. 11, 2013. The former Greenpeace stalwart now dismisses the group as “ultra-leftists.”
NORTH VANCOUVER — It didn’t seem like a fair fight. Not at first. Greenpeace calls itself “the world’s most visible environmental organization.” It might be that. And there was the new Rainbow Warrior, pride of the Greenpeace fleet, tied to a public wharf on Vancouver’s north shore. Its giant, twin masts beckoned like church steeples. Hundreds of people lined up to pay homage and to poke around the impressive 58-metre craft Friday morning.
The $32-million “eco-vessel” entered service two years ago. Now she’s on a west coast publicity trip. Dozens of young Greenpeace volunteers in “Ship Happens” hoodies welcomed the hoi polloi, briefed them on the boat, manned information booths and handed out promotional stuff: Buttons, brochures, posters. They had the drill down pat.
Golden Rice ProjectGolden Rice (R) has been genetically modified to produce beta-carotene which our bodies can convert to vitamin A.
Along came Patrick Moore, shuffling toward the glistening ship. He’s no stranger to Greenpeace, of course. Mr. Moore was an early stalwart, one of the group’s most committed, hardcore activists, a former president of the original Greenpeace Foundation before the movement split into factions. At his side was his brother, Michael, another former Greenpeace activist, and three younger family members.
No one rushed over to greet them. This was no cheery reunion. The Moores came not to praise Greenpeace, but to protest it.
They despair of Greenpeace now. “Ultra-leftists,” snarls Mr. Moore. What bothers them most is the organization’s stiff opposition to genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The Moores are big proponents of Golden Rice, a genetically modified cereal grain designed to produce beta carotin. It promises to combat Vitamin A deficiency in the developing world, the Moores insist, where rice is a dietary staple. The family has established a Vancouver-based non-profit society, Allow Golden Rice Now, to promote its further development and scientific research while bringing attention to what they claim is an efficient, humanitarian response to a global hardship.
Mr. Moore says that 6,000 children succumb from Vitamin A deficiency every day, and eight million have gone blind and died in the decade since Golden Rice was developed by a pair of scientists in Europe. The Moores have no financial stake in it, says Mr. Moore. Just a strong belief that Golden Rice is the best chance millions have of survival. But it remains controversial, and the rice is banned from commercial production. Greenpeace, he says, is partly responsible, having spread a campaign of misinformation about it.
His protest looked like a fizzle, a flop. Mr. Moore thought it best to set up down the wharf from the Rainbow Warrior, almost out of sight. “We thought we should be polite,” he shrugged, as Greenpeace gawkers wandered past, oblivious.
The Moores got some gumption and edged closer; soon they were standing beside the ship’s gangway, where people were lined up, waiting their turn to tour the large boat. Mr. Moore carried a yellow banner under one arm. His brother helped unfurl it. The message was bleak. “Greenpeace’s Crime Against Humanity: 8 Million Children Dead.”
Heads turned. People began to point. Some of the Greenpeace volunteers laughed.
Ben Nelms for National PostPatrick Moore leads a protest against Greenpeace's stance on the production of 'Golden Rice' outside Greenpeace's ship 'Rainbow Warrior,' which is docked in North Vancouver.
Michael Moore started a chant: “Greenpeace be nice, allow Golden Rice.” The rest of the Moores joined in. “Eight million children dead,” yelled Patrick.
Yossi Cadan, Greenpeace Canada’s campaigns director, stood on the ship’s deck and watched. A wry smile crossed his face. It’s not every day that Greenpeace is protested. The Moores were now handing out brochures, making things a little uptight.
Mr. Cadan stepped through a hatch and into the ship’s campaign room. He sat down at a table, and explained why Greenpeace takes the position it does against Golden Rice, why it will oppose to the end its commercial production. “Proponents say it will address Vitamin A deficiency, but that isn’t the main problem,” he said. ‘‘The main problem is malnutrition, and that is a result of poverty.” People need a range of healthy, fresh food, such as green leaf vegetables, not vitamin-enhanced rice, he said.
“There are other solutions,” he said, such as handing out pills to millions of vitamin-deprived people. Easier said than done. Mr. Cadan also repeated a familiar — but unproven — refrain, that genetically modified products are inherently unsafe. “We think it’s just insane,” said Mr. Cadan.
Talk turned to Mr. Moore, and his Greenpeace roots. “I know of him, of course,” said Mr. Cadan. “I don’t know him, personally. I’m not sure I’m interested in meeting him.”
He returned to his watch post, on the ship’s deck. The Moores were now in full disruption mode, handing out more brochures, holding up their banner, engaging with folk. “It’s a free country,” Mr. Cadan said with a shrug. “They can do what they like.”