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Golden Rice: Lifesaver? *You Decide*


Science & Tech  (tags: business, design, food, GMO, GeneticEngineering, health, investigation, NewTechnology, research, society, technology, world )

Kit
- 361 days ago - nytimes.com
[....]the rice is endowed with a gene from corn and another from a bacterium, making it the only variety in existence to produce beta carotene, the source of vitamin A. Its developers call it "Golden Rice."



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Kit B. (277)
Monday August 26, 2013, 6:01 pm
Photo Credit: forbes.com



One bright morning this month, 400 protesters smashed down the high fences surrounding a field in the Bicol region of the Philippines and uprooted the genetically modified rice plants growing inside.

Had the plants survived long enough to flower, they would have betrayed a distinctly yellow tint in the otherwise white part of the grain. That is because the rice is endowed with a gene from corn and another from a bacterium, making it the only variety in existence to produce beta carotene, the source of vitamin A. Its developers call it “Golden Rice.”

The concerns voiced by the participants in the Aug. 8 act of vandalism — that Golden Rice could pose unforeseen risks to human health and the environment, that it would ultimately profit big agrochemical companies — are a familiar refrain in the long-running controversy over the merits of genetically engineered crops. They are driving the desire among some Americans for mandatory “G.M.O.” labels on food with ingredients made from crops whose DNA has been altered in a laboratory. And they have motivated similar attacks on trials of other genetically modified crops in recent years: grapes designed to fight off a deadly virus in France, wheat designed to have a lower glycemic index in Australia, sugar beets in Oregon designed to tolerate a herbicide, to name a few.

“We do not want our people, especially our children, to be used in these experiments,” a farmer who was a leader of the protest told the Philippine newspaper Remate.

But Golden Rice, which appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 2000 before it was quite ready for prime time, is unlike any of the genetically engineered crops in wide use today, designed to either withstand herbicides sold by Monsanto and other chemical companies or resist insect attacks, with benefits for farmers but not directly for consumers.

And a looming decision by the Philippine government about whether to allow Golden Rice to be grown beyond its four remaining field trials has added a new dimension to the debate over the technology’s merits.

Not owned by any company, Golden Rice is being developed by a nonprofit group called the International Rice Research Institute with the aim of providing a new source of vitamin A to people both in the Philippines, where most households get most of their calories from rice, and eventually in many other places in a world where rice is eaten every day by half the population. Lack of the vital nutrient causes blindness in a quarter-million to a half-million children each year. It affects millions of people in Asia and Africa and so weakens the immune system that some two million die each year of diseases they would otherwise survive.

The destruction of the field trial, and the reasons given for it, touched a nerve among scientists around the world, spurring them to counter assertions of the technology’s health and environmental risks. On a petition supporting Golden Rice circulated among scientists and signed by several thousand, many vented a simmering frustration with activist organizations like Greenpeace, which they see as playing on misplaced fears of genetic engineering in both the developing and the developed worlds. Some took to other channels to convey to American foodies and Filipino farmers alike the broad scientific consensus that G.M.O.’s are not intrinsically more risky than other crops and can be reliably tested.

At stake, they say, is not just the future of biofortified rice but also a rational means to evaluate a technology whose potential to improve nutrition in developing countries, and developed ones, may otherwise go unrealized.

“There’s so much misinformation floating around about G.M.O.’s that is taken as fact by people,” said Michael D. Purugganan, a professor of genomics and biology and the dean for science at New York University, who sought to calm health-risk concerns in a primer on GMA News Online, a media outlet in the Philippines: “The genes they inserted to make the vitamin are not some weird manufactured material,” he wrote, “but are also found in squash, carrots and melons.”

Mr. Purugganan, who studies plant evolution, does not work on genetically engineered crops, and until recently had not participated in the public debates over the risks and benefits of G.M.O.’s. But having been raised in a middle-class family in Manila, he felt compelled to weigh in on Golden Rice. “A lot of the criticism of G.M.O.’s in the Western world suffers from a lack of understanding of how really dire the situation is in developing countries,” he said.

Some proponents of G.M.O.’s say that more critical questions, like where biotechnology should fall as a priority in the efforts to address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition and how to prevent a few companies from controlling it, would be easier to address were they not lumped together with unfounded fears by those who oppose G.M.O.’s.

“It is long past time for scientists to stand up and shout, ‘No more lies — no more fear-mongering,’ ” said Nina V. Fedoroff, a professor at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and a former science adviser to the American secretary of state, who helped spearhead the petition. “We’re talking about saving millions of lives here.”

Precisely because of its seemingly high-minded purpose, Golden Rice has drawn suspicion from biotechnology skeptics beyond the demonstrators who forced their way into the field trial. Many countries ban the cultivation of all genetically modified crops, and after the rice’s media debut early in the last decade, Vandana Shiva, an Indian environmentalist, called it a “Trojan horse” whose purpose was to gain public support for all manner of genetically modified crops that would benefit multinational corporations at the expense of poor farmers and consumers.

In a 2001 article, “The Great Yellow Hype,” the author Michael Pollan, a critic of industrial agriculture, suggested that it might have been developed to “win an argument rather than solve a public-health problem.” He cited biotechnology industry advertisements that featured the virtues of the rice, which at the time had to be ingested in large quantities to deliver a meaningful dose of vitamin A.

But the rice has since been retooled: a bowl now provides 60 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin A for healthy children. And Gerard Barry, the Golden Rice project leader at the International Rice Research Institute — and, it must be said, a former senior scientist and executive at Monsanto — suggests that attempts to discredit Golden Rice discount the suffering it could alleviate if successful. He said, too, that critics who suggest encouraging poor families to simply eat fruits and vegetables that contain beta carotene disregard the expense and logistical difficulties that would thwart such efforts.

Page one of two - Please continue reading ~
*****

By: Amy Harmon | The New York Times |

This article received an astounding 470 comments from readers.
 

GGmaSheila D. (154)
Monday August 26, 2013, 7:06 pm
Interesting - golden rice away is owned by no one. Could this constitute large scale human testing under the guise of humanitarianism. And still no one answers the one big question: why don't they want GMO labelling? This never seems to come up when talking about any GMO product. If it's so safe - label it. Noted with thanks.
 

Kathy B. (98)
Monday August 26, 2013, 7:36 pm
There are other ways to solve the Vitamin A problem that don't have the potential to contaminate crops. Golden rice only addresses a tiny portion of the problem and does nothing to combat the uneven distribution of food.
 

JL A. (275)
Monday August 26, 2013, 9:33 pm
Kathy makes excellent points. Many of the educational programs focused on agricultural science have been biased towards genetic changes to crops for several decades now--it's no wonder that some scientists cannot see a view that isn't supportive of it since they had no training in anything else.
 

Yvonne White (231)
Monday August 26, 2013, 9:37 pm
I understand cross-pollinating crops & humans have modified plants from the beginning of agriculture..but I'm leary of gene-splicing Un-related crops & a bacterium..it's great that it's Non-Profit & sincerely for the greater good..but I'm fearful of the unforeseen problems.."Not owned by any company, Golden Rice is being developed by a nonprofit group called the International Rice Research Institute with the aim of providing a new source of vitamin A to people both in the Philippines, where most households get most of their calories from rice, and eventually in many other places in a world where rice is eaten every day by half the population. Lack of the vital nutrient causes blindness in a quarter-million to a half-million children each year. It affects millions of people in Asia and Africa and so weakens the immune system that some two million die each year of diseases they would otherwise survive."
 

Yvonne White (231)
Monday August 26, 2013, 9:39 pm
Ask Ireland how becoming dependant on a "cheap & effective" single crop can ruin a nation when the Unexpected happens.
 

Rose NoFWDSPLZ (273)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 12:11 am
I don't like this at all
 

Dogan Ozkan (5)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 1:17 am
noted
 

Jonathan Harper (0)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 4:19 am
Noted
 

B Lewenza (76)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 4:58 am
Noted and shared Crossing rice with corn which is another stable in our diets is one thing and I understand the need for vitamin A and it's importance. But it is what they are not referring to that is scary. Why won't they list it if it is so safe. I love rice but I want to know what I am eating, nothing but rice thank you.
 

Dandelion G. (386)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 5:33 am
Whether this is one golden rice is safe and they are letting them keep the seeds is beneficial or not needs to be put on hold until this GMO monster is put in check. Very well could be the Trojan Horse as was stated within the article. This is what happens when you throw too much crap out there, it hinders something that may be of good. That is "may"....

I don't like it, I don't trust these Companies anymore, they've lied before, they still haven't done sufficient studies to show how these foods will affect us in positive ways, in fact most studies by those not hired by the Monsanto's of the world, are coming out in negatives.

To save the eyesight then gain complications in one's health in another way doesn't seem a good trade off to me. I think there are other ways to provide Vitamin A to those in need without going into the GMO's. We are the only species that can't seem to learn how to live with that in it's natural form or to live in balance with our environments.
 

. (0)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 7:19 am
I think it would be a great crop and very beneficial to lots of people.
 

Kit B. (277)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 7:48 am

When I first read this my thoughts were that even if this is an honest attempt to feed the hungry, GMO companies have so corrupted our thoughts and attitudes that it will probably not be accepted. We know that Vitamin A is very important, we know scientifically that the human body needs very little Vitamin A and can easily over dose. Most foods already contain a sufficient amount, but for those who are living with constant food shortage adding vitamin enriched foods might not be a bad thing. Still my mind lingers over the man behind the curtain. Who is the beneficiary of the enviable profits in this or similar foods?

There does seem to be an attempt to keep to much of this golden rice and it's potential as secret, that does not bode well for it's acceptance. Label it, tell all, show all of the results of testing, who will make money from this, and what are the potential side effects?

We have now become properly wary of this kind of altruism, there has always been a down side.
 

Micheael Kirkbym (85)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 10:06 am
You get vitamin A from other vegetables; fish and meat and fruits - not rice. I am not convinced. What are they hiding?
 

Arielle S. (317)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 10:32 am
if they are going to create something, why give it Vitamin A and no nutrients at all? Greenpeace calls this rice "all glitter and no gold" - they are against it for various reasons and that's good enough for me...
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/failures-of-golden-rice/
 

Yvonne White (231)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 1:35 pm
Thanks for the link Arielle! Too good to be true happens too often..*heavy sigh*.
 

Joanne Dixon (38)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 2:41 pm
I was already skeptical but when the article used the phrase "unfounded fears by those who oppose G.M.O.’s" that's all she wrote, I knew it was a shill.
 

Bob P. (424)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 3:19 pm
Thanks Kit
 

Theodore Shayne (56)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 3:31 pm
Bu! Nyet! Nein! Non! Lo! Absolutely frickin' not.
 

Kathy B. (98)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 4:32 pm
Further thoughts - Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it is stored in body fat and too much can cause harm to a person. WHEN (not if) this rice contaminates other rice and people who are not Vitamin A deficient consume it, it could pose problems.
 

Jennifer C. (172)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 5:58 pm
Thanks.
 

june t. (65)
Tuesday August 27, 2013, 10:33 pm
independent body needs to review this rice
 

Herbert E. (10)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 1:53 am
I didn't read the whole article above, I'll cite Dr. MERCOLA here instead :
"Even if golden rice is successfully introduced … a woman would need to eat 16 lbs. of cooked rice every day in order to get sufficient Vitamin A, if golden rice were her only source of the nutrient. A child would need 12 lbs."
Monsanto is goood - for Monsanto, not for us.
 

Nancy M. (201)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 10:06 am
"In a 2001 article, “The Great Yellow Hype,” the author Michael Pollan, a critic of industrial agriculture, suggested that it might have been developed to “win an argument rather than solve a public-health problem.”"

Intersting. What I have "heard" and read various places (and no, I don't have a srouce at the moment) was that the inventor purposefully tried to violate as many patents as he could to see if anyone would do anything about it. You know, it it was supposed to be a "good thing".

Also, many of the populations for whom the rice was intended have not taken to it because it is golden and not white.
 

Carmen S. (611)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 11:40 am
Very interesting, thanks Kit
 

Terrie Williams (768)
Sunday September 1, 2013, 12:33 am
What Theodore said!

Ain't no way, no how, no reason on earth am I eating that monster. Never trust corporations who refuse to label their products. I trust none of them...not even the supposedly 'non-profits'.
 

Craig Pittman (45)
Sunday September 1, 2013, 4:55 am
I seriously doubt if nutrition and the welfare of humanity is the primary motive for the development and promotion of this crop. It's profit driven of course and the so-called benefits don't ring true nor does anything else positive about GMO foods. Just not buying it - the food nor the concept.
 

Syd H. (48)
Monday September 2, 2013, 4:29 am
How much money, effort, time has gone into this and it's still not ready? How could all of that been used to get vitamin A to those who need it sooner? How many different schemes could have been tried or created rather than diverting all the gold into one pot?


This rice is only about getting an acceptable project for the Bio-Tech companies to point to when we object to their other poisons.


One thing I have not seen much about either is the pesticide needs and usage of this rice (and who sells those inputs).
 

Past Member (0)
Monday March 31, 2014, 5:45 pm
GMO biochemists that eat each other :0) Probably do anyway.:0) um..never mind
 
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