Golden Rice fails its test


B. McPherson
Making children unknowing guinea pigs undermines trust in official pronouncements
The genetically altered grain known as Golden Rice has been touted as the answer to Vitamin A deficiency in many countries around the world. The premise is that a gene inserted into the DNA of rice would produce beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A.

This would be the first GM organism that would be aimed at improved nutrition rather than having commercial traits inserted into the genome.

While those who fully support the growing of GM field crops are still supporting the Golden Rice and castigating those who would criticize tinkering with the genes of one of the world’s most important foods, Golden Rice has been field tested and found wanting.

The International Rice Research Institute(IRRI), located in the Philippines, is a non-profit organization that is overseeing various research projects that seek to improve the nutrients in rice. Both traditional selection and hybridization methods are being used as well as high tech methods that select a rice gene carrying a desirable trait and inserting it into another rice plant. They are also the principal testing organization for Golden Rice which uses maize genes.

The IRRI looks for a new rice to meet three criteria: thrives in the field trials and produces an adequate crop, is safe to eat, produces enough carotene(in the case of Golden Rice) to be effective in producing enough carotene to spur Vitamin A production. To date the field testing has proved disappointing and the variety will be worked on further.

Vitamin A deficiency affects over 200 million people around the world, most in Africa, Asia and the Indian sub-continent. The lack of Vitamin A can be devastating. Night vision loss is a common symptom but blindness, immune system deficiencies and higher rates of death especially for women and children.

Sources:
GM Watch           
Wikipedia           

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