GE rice threatens biodiversity
"Golden Rice" is a technical failure. It won't overcome
malnutrition.Worse, it is drawing funding and attention away from
the real solutionsto combat the very real problem of vitamin A
Vitamin A is essential to humans. It has several functions in
thehuman body and is important for eyesight. Vitamin A deficiency
can leadto blindness and death, and is a severe problem for many
countries inthe global south.
More hype than substance
was presented in 2000 as a rice variety that was
geneticallyengineered in a laboratory to produce pro-vitamin A
(beta-carotene).The media hype was more robust than the science,
however, and ouranalysis revealed that people would need to consume
12 times more ricethan normal to satisfy the minimum daily adult
requirements of VitaminA. Subsequent studies have questioned the
very notion that Golden Ricewould be effective in addressing
Vitamin A deficiency.
"Industry tries to sell Golden Rice as a magic solution.
Theirstrategy is misleading the public, they are oversimplifying
the actualproblems in combating vitamin A deficiency and try to
turn down other,more effective solutions," says Christoph Then,
GreenpeaceInternational GE campaigner. "The Golden Rice project
simply aims tohelp industry to gain support for their controversial
GE-food inmarkets such as India and Europe".
Close reading of the Golden Rice publications reveals that
technicalproblems were glossed over. The initial reports did not
fully, noraccurately, describe the type of pro-vitamin A present in
Golden Rice.Other factors limiting the effectiveness of Golden Rice
The human food safety of GE rice is unknown. However,
theenvironmental risk of GE rice is clear. Golden Rice could breed
withwild and weedy relatives to contaminate wild rice forever. If
therewere any problems the clock could not be turned back.
When the risk is high, the potential consequences devastating,
and the benefits unclear, precaution is called for.
Since Golden Rice was presented in 2000, solutions such as
increasedfood diversity, vitamin supplements and home gardening
have proven tobe working solutions for Vitamin A deficiency. While
Vitamin Adeficiency is still a serious problem in countries such as
Bangladesh,these solutions helped to virtually eliminate Vitamin-A
relatedblindness in children. There are also traditional rice
varieties thatcould combat Vitamin A deficiency.
"GE rice could, if introduced on a large scale,
exacerbatemalnutrition and undermine food security because it
encourages a dietbased on a single industrial staple food rather
than upon thereintroduction of the many vitamin-rich food plants
with highnutritional value that are cheap and already available."
says ProfessorKlaus Becker, from University of Hohenheim,
The promoters of Golden Rice will shortly be presenting
newresearch, claiming that new versions will have ten times the
content ofbeta-carotene as the first generation.
But despite five years of propaganda about potential
benefits,Golden Rice has failed to deliver real results. There are
betteranswers to the problem of Vitamin A deficiency -- solutions
that arecheaper, more effective, more sustainable for the
environment, and freeof risk to one of the world's most important
foods. The only problemfor the GE industry is that the only profit
in those solutions is forthe poor.
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