This is the 2nd part of this series. For the first part, click here
A crop that would be beneficial and available for wide distribution in these developing nations is that of Golden Rice. This is a genetically modified rice that has its genes spliced with a gene from corn and another from a bacterium, making it the only variety in existence to produce beta carotene, a source of vitamin-A. This resulting golden-yellow colored, genetically engineered strain of rice is one that many of its supporters say could reduce vitamin-A deficiencies – a leading cause of blindness and death in children in the developing world.
Golden Rice Plants Genetically Modified Golden Rice (left)
Photos from the International Rice Research Institute
The Influencers on Both Sides
While it is the biotechnology companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta that are best known as the developers of the GMO engineered seeds that produces genetically food products, it is the scientific community such as chemists, biologists, and economists that are the driving advocates of GMO products – in particular, Golden Rice. In fact, it was a select committee of 107 Nobel laureates that recently denounced the Greenpeace organization over their stance on GMO.
Greenpeace, the global environmental advocacy organization, has lined up on the opposite side of the GMO debate. Greenpeace views GMO crops as a form of genetic pollution with concerns that GMOs can be inadvertently spread through nature and interbreed with natural organisms in contaminating non ‘Genetically Engineered’ environments and future generations in an unforeseeable and uncontrollable way.
The debate between the mainstream scientists and environmental activists has thus far forestalled further progress in implantation of Golden Rice and other GMO crops in developing nations.
Golden Rice Can Save Lives
Golden Rice is beneficial to the health of many destitute third-world citizens. Vitamin A is a vital nutrient needed for good vision, growth, development, and a healthy immune system. Everybody needs vitamin A, particularly lactating mothers, pregnant women and young children. Globally, up to 250 million children and 19 million women are vitamin A deficient according to the World Health Organization. If all children in deprived areas were given enough vitamin A, up to 2.7 million deaths could be prevented each year.
Map of global areas of vitamin-A deficiency
Photo from Genetic Literacy Project
Rice is a staple for about half the world’s population. Its cost and availability makes it the most cost effective and practical method of feeding the populace of the world’s developing nations – and with vast nutritional benefits.
For my third and last post on GMO Enhanced Food Crops for Developing Nations, click here