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Genetically Modified Golden Rice: 15 Years of Failure

By On November 9, 2015

Golden Rice grain compared to white rice grain in screenhouse of Golden Rice plants.

 

The controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms has been known to elicit strong emotions, and few have done so as much as GMO “golden rice,” a pet project of the Biotech industry.

Golden rice is being peddled by pro-GMO interests as something of a magic solution to the problem of Vitamin A deficiency in the Philippines, even going as far as to accuse opponents of the genetically modified rice as being responsible for widespread sickness and even worse in the area.

But is this GMO rice really safe? Is it actually effective? And considering the lack of long term testing, is this expensive project really the answer to a problem that opponents say could be solved by simply growing different types of crops or shipping in vitamin A-rich foods and supplements?

The website GMWatch.org has been following the golden rice saga for many months now, and recently offered an update showing why this dangerously untested rice is in fact not needed after all:

Despite the cover of TIME magazine proclaiming a decade and a half ago, “This rice could save a million kids a year” and the project having been launched as far back as 1985, golden rice still is not ready, as is clear from the revealing collection of quotes (read here).

And it’s important to emphasize that this delay is entirely down to over-promising and failure to deliver and not, as the likes of Patrick Moore like to claim, due to push back from golden rice’s critics.

The New York Times reporter Amy Harmon, who has reported sympathetically on golden rice, confirms that she has never seen any convincing evidence activism has significantly delayed the production of Golden Rice.

The article includes information about how Vitamin A deficiency is being tackled in the Philippines with cost effective non-GMO methods, and includes a video of Filipinos themselves speaking out about how the rice is not needed after all.

Golden Rice: 15 Years of Failure

Also included in the article is a timeline of events surrounding the golden rice project. It begins with AstraZeneca (now Syngenta) proclaiming that the rice would be available in 2003, but that of course has not materialized as of yet.

It goes on to highlight at 2014 trial of the rice that was far less successful than was hoped:

Preliminary results were mixed… The initial results indicate that more research is needed, with greater focus on increasing yield… the developments described above will result in a delay in the timeline.”

For more on the golden rice controversy and why the rice has consistently failed since it was announced and why it is unnecessary, check out the full article from GMWatch by clicking here. An excellent article on golden rice myths can also be found by clicking here.

As Michael Hansen from the Consumers Union put it:

The ultimate answer is to realize that Vitamin A deficiency is a symptom of poverty – someone who is so poor they can only afford rice and virtually nothing else – and that rather than treat the symptom, one should treat the cause – poverty. Also, food diversification via sustainable agriculture and land reform are the longer-term answers since many local crops foods have high B-carotene levels.