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ARTICLE: Golden Rice: The GMO crop Greenpeace hates and humanitarians love

The following is an excerpt of an article at the Genetic Literacy Project website giving an update on the latest news on Golden Rice

Golden Rice is back in the news.

The Philippines and Bangladesh are moving closer towards commercialization of the GMO food crop to combat vitamin A deficiency, a serious public health issue in Asia.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the countries’ joint food safety regulator, recently recommended Golden Rice be approved for import sale in order to limit trade disruptions with countries in Asia that adopt Golden Rice.

What is Golden Rice?

Golden Rice is conventional rice that has been genetically engineered to have high levels of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Beta-carotene is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables (it's what makes carrots orange), but rice, which can make up to 80 percent of the daily diet in Asia, contains few micronutrients.

The Golden Rice prototype was developed in the 1990s by European scientists Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer without any direct corporate involvement, and was greeted with much enthusiasm. Potrykus appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 2000 along with the headline "This Rice could save a million kids a year." However, the prototype didn’t contain high enough levels of beta-carotene to be an effective source of vitamin A.

Recognizing the need to improve upon their breakthrough discovery, the scientists licensed their intellectual property to Syngenta on the condition that it would be made available to farmers in the developing world for free. The company developed an improved Golden Rice variety with much higher levels of beta-carotene in 2005 and decided not to commercialize it in the developed world as there was no market for it. Syngenta continues to support the project with advice and scientific know-how, but has no commercial control over it.

The current version of Golden Rice has two transgenes, or genes from another species. One is from corn and the other comes from a commonly-ingested soil bacterium. These two genes activate rice’s metabolic carotenoid pathway, which produces beta-carotene.

Contrary to popular perception, Golden Rice is not a single rice variety. The nutritional traits that were originally inserted in rice plants using genetic engineering have been crossed with many local rice varieties via conventional breeding. This means that farmers in the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Vietnam can maintain the advantages of the cultivars they’ve been growing, improving via conventional methods and eating for years.

To read the entire article, please visit the Genetic Literacy Project website