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Why Genetically Engineered Rice Is a Bad Idea

For related articles and information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Canada News page.

Rice

Rice is daily food for half of the world's population. Genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered) rice is a threat to our health, agriculture and biodiversity.

No GM rice is grown commercially anywhere in the world.

In September 2011, the Chinese government stated it was suspending the commercialisation of genetically engineered rice. The future of GM rice in China remains uncertain.  In June 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture in Thailand laid a policy ("Rice Strategy") that committed to non-GM rice as part of strengthening the nation's rice production while promoting farmers' livelihoods and consumer confidence. The policy is supported by Thailand's Rice Exporters Association.

"Golden Rice" GM Vitamin-A Rice

"Golden Rice" is the name of a rice that has been genetically modified (GM, or genetically engineered) to produce betacarotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A. This beta-carotene gives the rice grains the yellowish colour that has inspired its name. 

"Golden Rice" - GM Vitamin-A Rice, CBAN Factsheet, January 2014

Golden Rice - a complex tangle of unanswered questions, The Ecologist, February 2014

Click here for the short update briefing: Status of Golden Rice, January 2014.         

 "Golden Rice" - GM Vitamin-A Rice, CBAN Factsheet, January 2014

Golden Rice - a complex tangle of unanswered questions, The Ecologist, February 2014

Click here for the short update briefing: Status of Golden Rice, January 2014.

Genetically engineered "Golden rice" is touted as a solution to the serious health problems, including blindness, resulting from widespread vitamin-A deficiency in the Global South. Golden Rice has been in development for almost 20 years and is still being tested.

In February 2013, the International Rice Research Institute which is a partner in developing Golden Rice stated, "It has not yet been determined whether daily consumption of Golden Rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient and could therefore reduce related conditions such as night blindness."

The first Golden Rice variety did not produce enough beta carotene (Provitamin A) - it produced only 1.6 micro g/gm of carotenoids. A child would have had to eat more than 10 kilograms per day to get a sufficient dose. The industry says they have now solved this problem with a better variety of the rice. The rice is called "Golden Rice" because of its colour but the beta-carotene that makes the rice yellow was an unexpected effect.

Vitamin A supplementation and food fortification in the Philippines (began in 1999) has already reduced vitamin A deficiency in preschool age children from 40% in 2003 to 15.2% in 2008 (the World Health Organization considers 15% to be the cutoff for when deficiency is considered a public health problem).

Other solutions to vitamin-A deficiency are available, such as delivering vitamin A supplements and fortifying vitamin A in staple foods, and are better targeted and more cost efficient. Furthermore, many conventionally bred plants show a high carotinoid content. Vitamin-A deficiency is a symptom of malnutrition and hunger due to severe poverty.     


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