Genetically engineered (GE) Golden Rice has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The U.S. is now the fourth country to give approval to this GE food, along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Golden Rice is genetically engineered to contain extra genes that produce beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. It is being touted as a potential solution to global vitamin A deficiency, despite serious questions remaining regarding its safety and effectiveness.
Let’s talk first about it being a solution to vitamin A deficiency, which affects 250 million preschool-aged children worldwide. It is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children, with up to 500,000 children becoming blind each year due to vitamin A deficiency. There’s no question that this is a serious and alarming problem.
The FDA based their decision to approve Golden Rice on data supplied by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), who currently make Golden Rice and is currently tasked with ensuring the product’s safety. It has been noted that its beta-carotene content is “too low to warrant a nutrient content claim.” Wasn’t that the whole purpose of creating this product?
According to Health Canada, even if all rice and rice products in the country were replaced with Golden Rice, it would result in only a very small (0.8 to 8%) increase in beta-carotene intake daily. Additionally, research has shown that whatever beta-carotene content there is in Golden Rice at harvest degrades rapidly in storage. Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry revealed that after three weeks of storage Golden Rice retained only 60% of its beta-carotene and this dropped to 13% after 10 weeks.
GE-Free New Zealand said there was a “total absence of data” regarding the safety of this rice and considered taking legal action against Food Standards Australia, New Zealand and the Minister for Food Safety over its approval. Greenpeace noted “next to nothing is known about how this GE rice interacts with the environment.”
I believe the most important question to ask in these issues is – who is really benefitting? It isn’t always who it seems.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, has invested millions of dollars toward the development of Golden Rice, which stands to make the biotech industry even richer, especially if it paves the way for the approval of even more GE crops globally.
Perhaps instead of pouring millions of dollars into Golden Rice, which is questionable in its safety and efficacy in alleviating vitamin A deficiency, real food sources of beta-carotene and other nutrients could be provided instead.
I always want to make you aware when these questionable products become available in case you didn’t know about them and they appear on the grocery store shelves.
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I haven’t even heard of this. However, I tend to shop at places that only carry natural and healthy foods. We used to eat tons of brown rice. Then I learned about the arsenic levels. So we’ve swapped quinoa in many meals. Till I find out Quinoa is bad for us too. 😏
It’s interesting though. We’re always looking to create “products” to deal with the people who are undernourished. There’s a simpler and healthier solution I’m sure. There always is.
I hear you Holly. Every day it seems “they” find out something we thought was healthy is a problem. I still stand on this: choose real, well grown, raised foods and eat a variety. As for helping those who are undernourished, there is a simpler solution but it doesn’t make anyone rich so I guess there will be these amazing discoveries. Thanks as always for your comments.