Golden Rice. A New Genetically Modified Food.

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The latest from the Biotech industry is genetically modified ‘Golden Rice’, engineered to have added beta-carotene (proVitamin A carotenoid). They SAY its to ‘improve the lives of the poor’ in countries like the Philippines and China where people’s diets are lacking in the vitamin. This may seem like a great idea, however there are numerous potentially negative affects of genetically modified foods. For one, GMO have not been proven safe for human consumption. A major study in France showed cancerous tumour growth in rats that were fed genetically modified corn.(1) There is no telling what long-term consumption of gm food can have on human health or the environment in which its grown. There are safer, more sustainable and affordable ways to address the issue of lacking Vitamin A/malnourishment. Instead of Vitamin A enriched GM rice, how about encouraging the consumption of sweet potatoes? this food is extremely rich in Vitamin A and grows plentifully in China and other areas where the Golden Rice is targeted. Just one cup of cooked sweet potato offers 769% of ones daily recommended intake, plus it is rich in many other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. China actually grows most of the world’s sweet potatoes, but they feed it to animals for meat consumption. Eating sweet potatoes directly would improve peoples diets and negate the need for expensive and possibly harmful genetically modified rice. Neth Daño advocates on behalf of small farmers with the ETC Group in the Philippines, says the main purpose of GM crops has not been to help people; it’s been driven by profit. She doesn’t think this approach is a good way to address the issue of malnutrition, as it is more expensive and less effective than traditional nutrition programs.

The Biotech company behind Golden Rice is interested in SELLING seed to small farmers who will ultimately be dependent on them, instead of simply relying on themselves by re-planting rice seeds using traditional methods. This reliance of struggling farmers on wealthy corporations compromises food security. People and farmers are hindered rather than helped by the introduction of GM food. This is clear when looking at the pattern of financial and environmental disaster that follows GMO crops in countries like India. There has been a mass public movement against the biotech industry in India where GM seed was introduced, causing hundreds of farmers to go into debt, many of whom committed suicide. Collecting and saving traditional varieties of rice is FREE and thus does not risk farmers going into debt with companies like Monsanto who make farmers pay for seeds, pesticides and herbicides to use on their crops. Examples of this tragic cycle is seen all over the world, and as a result GM foods have been banned in countries like Peru, Russia, France, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, and Egypt. In Germany farmers are not allowed to grow GMO crops close to regular farms for fear of cross-contamination. In the case of Golden Rice, cross-pollination of seeds runs the risk of a total wipe-out of natural, non-GM rice.

Controversy arose when Golden rice was tested by US-funded researchers on children in China to measure the absorption of Vitamin A. They did not tell the children or their parents that the grain was genetically modified however, which I and many others took great issue with. The Chinese government reacted by removing the Chinese co-authors of the study from their jobs. Even though no long-term studies have been done on the safety of GM foods to human health, they are currently being sold in our supermarkets with no warning label. Numerous studies have shown cancer growth and other dangerous health affects on rats who were fed GM foods. The children in the China study were treated as lab rats, like all of us, who are potentially, unknowingly eating GM products on a daily basis.

I sincerely hope that Golden Rice is not implemented in the targeted China, Philippines and Bangladesh and that the people and land are spared of genetically modified seeds. Rice is at the core of Asian food culture and agricultural traditional. It is in my view that rice and the other staple foods being genetically altered (corn, wheat, soy) should be preserved and respected as nature created them.
-Inspired by original story by NPR’s food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/03/07/173611461/in-a-grain-of-golden-rice-a-world-of-controversy-over-gmo-foods

1) http://www.english.rfi.fr/americas/20120920-monsanto-gm-maize-may-face-europe-ban-after-french-study-links-cancer

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One comment

  • Rachael Ludwick March 15, 2013   Reply →

    The Biotech company behind Golden Rice is interested in SELLING seed and
    chemical-inputs to small farmers who will ultimately be dependent on
    them, instead of simply relying on themselves by re-planting rice seeds
    using environmentally-sustainable methods.

    This is wrong. The only trait Golden Rice varieties will have is to produce beta carotene which doesn’t require “chemical-inputs”. Farmers who are already using fertilizers or other inputs could of course keep using them, though I would guess very poor farmers don’t. Golden Rice doesn’t change that. Moreover, the seeds will be provided either free or at costs no more than local riceis sold that doesn’t have the trait. The farmers will also be free to save seed and re-plant as they desire without paying anyone.

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