October 26, 2014

Rice

Rice is daily food for half of the world's population. Genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered) rice is a threat to our health, agriculture and biodiversity.

No GM rice is grown commercially anywhere in the world.

  • In September 2011, the Chinese government stated it was suspending the commercialisation of genetically engineered rice. The future of GM rice in China remains uncertain.
  • In June 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture in Thailand laid a policy (“Rice Strategy”) that committed to non-GM rice as part of strengthening the nation’s rice production while promoting farmers’ livelihoods and consumer confidence. The policy is supported by Thailand’s Rice Exporters Association.

"Golden Rice" GM Vitamin-A Rice

“Golden Rice” is the name of a rice that has been genetically modified (GM, or genetically engineered) to produce betacarotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A. This beta-carotene gives the rice grains the yellowish colour that has inspired its name.

"Golden Rice" - GM Vitamin-A Rice, CBAN Factsheet, January 2014

Golden Rice - a complex tangle of unanswered questions, The Ecologist, February 2014

Click here for the short update briefing: Status of Golden Rice, January 2014.

Genetically engineered "Golden rice" is touted as a solution to the serious health problems, including blindness, resulting from widespread vitamin-A deficiency in the Global South. Golden Rice has been in development for almost 20 years and is still being tested.

In February 2013, the International Rice Research Institute which is a partner in developing Golden Rice stated, “It has not yet been determined whether daily consumption of Golden Rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient and could therefore reduce related conditions such as night blindness.”

The first Golden Rice variety did not produce enough beta carotene (Provitamin A) - it produced only 1.6 micro g/gm of carotenoids. A child would have had to eat more than 10 kilograms per day to get a sufficient dose. The industry says they have now solved this problem with a better variety of the rice. The rice is called "Golden Rice" because of its colour but the beta-carotene that makes the rice yellow was an unexpected effect.

Vitamin A supplementation and food fortification in the Philippines (began in 1999) has already reduced vitamin A deficiency in preschool age children from 40% in 2003 to 15.2% in 2008 (the World Health Organization considers 15% to be the cutoff for when deficiency is considered a public health problem).

Other solutions to vitamin-A deficiency are available, such as delivering vitamin A supplements and fortifying vitamin A in staple foods, and are better targeted and more cost efficient. Furthermore, many conventionally bred plants show a high carotinoid content. Vitamin-A deficiency is a symptom of malnutrition and hunger due to severe poverty.

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