The Philippines plans to plant its first crop of golden rice, a new strain of rice that boosts vitamin A levels and reduces blindness, this spring.
Scientists developed the world’s first genetically modified crop 30 years ago with the hope o fending global malnutrition. Golden rice is one of the first GM crops developed specifically to bring real nutritional benefit to developing countries where children struggle with malnourishment.
Now that the Philippines has approved the rice for planning, the door appears to have opened for other countries accepting the new rice. Bangladesh and Indonesia have indicated they are ready to accept golden rice, and other nations, including India, have also said that they are considering planting it.
“Vitamin A deficiency is deadly,” said Adrian Dubock, a member of the Golden Rice project. “It affects children’s immune systems and kills around two million every year in developing countries. It is also a major cause of blindness in the third world. Boosting levels of vitamin A in rice provides a simple, straightforward way to put that right.”
Recent tests have revealed that a substantial amount of vitamin A can be obtained by eating only 60 grams of cooked golden rice. “This has enormous potential,” Dubock said.
Golden rice was originally developed in 1999, but gaining approvals for its cultivations has been staggering slow and vehemently opposed by those who refused to accept that the new rice could deliver enough vitamin A. The anti-GM crowd has embraced golden rice as the crop to hate, claiming it will create a dependence on western companies and is merely a tool of capitalism.
Scientists have rejected the anti-GM claims and suggest that the rice offers real benefits.
“We have developed this [rice] in conjunction with organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a way of alleviating a real health problem in the developing world,” said Dubock. “No one is going to make money out of it. The companies involved in developing some of the technologies have waived their licenses just to get this off the ground.”