Golden Rice is being tested in experimental fields in the Philippines but some people there don’t want it. Matt McGrath at the BBC reports that, a few days ago, local farmers vandalised the field trial. I’m grateful to my fellow blogger Finn Holding at The Naturephile for drawing attention to this.
Golden Rice is a variety of Oryza sativa. It was made by genetic modification (GM, also called genetic engineering or GE) so it’s one of the biotech crops. It makes β-carotene (provitamin A) in its grains. The idea is that people in poor countries, especially pregnant women and young children, could eat Golden Rice.
Here’s how it works. β-carotene is a ‘provitamin’ because the body converts it to Vitamin A. We need Vitamin A for our eyes and immune system, among other things. In many poor countries, people are malnourished so that Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) is a serious problem.
So Golden Rice is supposed to stop kids going blind. It might even stop some kids from dying. You can see more under my ‘Golden Rice’ tag.
The Golden Rice Project team tells us that Golden Rice is part of the solution to malnutrition. That team also tells us about the science behind Golden Rice. Apparently it’s been made from round-grained rice and also from long-grained rice.
Is Golden Rice is part of the solution to malnutrition? Well, maybe. It’s not up to me. But for what it’s worth, I think neglected crops may be more relevant. Nor is it up to Non Governmental Organisaions like Helen Keller International, although people there are talking good sense about VAD. Nor is it up to our British Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson. Golden Rice was one of the topics about which Mr Paterson showed his ignorance when he announced that GM is wonderful. He seemed to think that kids go blind within hours of not getting enough Vitamin A, which isn’t true.
The decision about whether to let farmers buy, and grow, Golden Rice seeds is a decision for governments in rice-growing countries. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in the Philippines, told us what was happening about Golden Rice. Until the vandalism happened.