“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. It is still being tested for safety and efficacy but is being widely promoted as an example of how GM can be used to solve important global problems.
Health Canada Approves Golden Rice
March, 2018: Health Canada has approved the genetically engineered Golden Rice as safe for human consumption, even though the rice is not intended for the Canadian market and has not yet been approved in the intended markets in Asia.
Health Canada said, “The efficacy of the GR2E rice in helping vitamin A deficiency in affected populations was not evaluated.”
- Press release, March 20, 2018: Health Canada approves GM “Golden Rice” not intended for sale in Canada
- Read our correspondence with the Minister of Health.
- CBAN Letter to the Editor, The Western Producer, April 12, 2018: Golden Rice assumptions wrong
In the summary of its decision to approve Golden Rice, Health Canada said, “The main intended market for this product is in countries such as Bangladesh and the Philippines where diets are typically low in vitamin A…The International Rice Research Institute has indicated that this product is not intended to be sold in Canada.” And yet Health Canada also said that it conducted the scientific assessment of Golden Rice “in order to determine whether this rice variety could be sold in Canada as food.”
“Stop Golden Rice! Defend our Farmers‘ Rights! remains the resounding call of Asia farmers‘ network against the impending commercialization of Golden Rice in Asia. Waves of protest mobilizations stirs anew in the Philippines and Bangladesh against its commercialization, while debate rages on in Indonesia, India and other Asian countries where Golden Rice is planned for commercial release.” Read the joint statement from over 30 organizations in the Stop Golden Rice! Network
In December 2017 the government agency Food Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) was the first to approve Golden Rice. German non-profit group Testbiotech said: “This application does not show substantial benefits. Furthermore, the risk assessment as performed by FZANZ is not sufficient to demonstrate safety of food derived from GR2.” Read the critique of the safety data from Testbiotech.
“Golden Rice” – GM Vitamin-A Rice, CBAN Factsheet, Updated July 2016
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 over 20 years and is still being tested.
Current Golden Rice strains do not yield as well as their non-GM counterparts. Proponents of Golden Rice often claim that opposition has prevented the crop from helping millions of people, but in reality Golden Rice is still in development.
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.
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).
Farmers’ organizations across Asia continue to oppose the release of Golden Rice. Read the joint statement from over 30 organizations in the Stop Golden Rice! Network: “Stop Golden Rice! Defend our Farmers‘ Rights! remains the resounding call of Asia farmers‘ network against the impending commercialization of Golden Rice in Asia. Waves of protest mobilizations stirs anew in the Philippines and Bangladesh against its commercialization, while debate rages on in Indonesia, India and other Asian countries where Golden Rice is planned for commercial release.”
- Stop Golden Rice! Network for news and action in Asia
- Genetically modified Golden Rice falls short on lifesaving promises: GMO activists not to blame for scientific challenges slowing introduction, study finds. Gerry Everding, Washington University in St Louis, June 2, 2016
- Don’t Eat the Yellow Rice: The Danger of Deploying Vitamin A Golden Rice, Ted Greiner, Independent Science News, July 2016
- “Golden Rice” – GM Vitamin-A Rice, CBAN Factsheet, Updated July 2016
- 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.
- Read “Golden Rice not yet ready”, Letter to the editor, Ontario Farmer, March 2012, by Lucy Sharratt, CBAN Coordinator
- January 2012 report “Golden Lies” from Testbiotech, Germany – click here for a summary and to download the pdf.
- Read the report from Greenpeace “Golden Illusion: The broken promise of Golden Rice”.
For the broader context see CBAN’s GMO Inquiry report “Do we need GM crops to feed the world?”