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A World First: Philippines Will Soon Start Eating GMO “Golden Rice”

Discussion in 'Dietetics' started by Mahmoud Abudeif, Jul 27, 2021.

  1. Mahmoud Abudeif

    Mahmoud Abudeif Golden Member

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    Developed by Philippines’ Department of Agriculture in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute, this rice is just what the doctor ordered: it contains additional levels of beta-carotene, which then the body converts into vitamin A.

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    “It’s a really significant step for our project because it means that we are past this regulatory phase and golden rice will be declared as safe as ordinary rice,” Russell Reinke of the International Rice Research Institute told AFP. “The next step is to take out few kilos of seeds and multiply it, so it can be made widely available.”

    A new type of rice

    Golden rice has a rich history, with researchers from Germany and Switzerland starting to look into it in 1982. Then, in 1999, various groups came together and continued the research, successfully triggering beta carotene production in rice in 1999. An improved version was later produced with Syngenta, with much higher levels of beta carotene. The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A (retinol).

    While ordinary rice does produce beta carotene, it’s not found in the grain. Thus, scientists used genetic engineering to add the compound to the grain. The beta carotene is identical to the one found in green leafy and yellow-colored vegetables, orange-colored fruit, and even in many vitamin supplements and food ingredients.

    This new type of rice was harshly questioned by environmental organizations opposed to genetically altered food plants, such as Greenpeace. While it has now passed the final regulatory hurdle, the rice is still far from appearing across Asia. Limited quantities of seed would start being distributed to selected farmers next year.

    “The only change that we’ve made is to produce beta-carotene in the grain,” Reinke told AFP, replying to the criticism. “The farmers will be able to grow them in exactly the same way as ordinary varieties. It doesn’t need additional fertilizer or changes in management and it carries with it the benefit of improved nutrition.”

    Why this matters

    Vitamin A is one of many nutrients lacking in the diets of many children in Asia. It’s essential for normal growth and development, the proper functioning of the immune system, and vision. Vitamin A deficiency, also known as VAD, can cause blindness and even premature death. An estimated 190 million children worldwide are affected by it.

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