“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.
“Golden Rice” is not yet ready for the market. It has not been submitted for approval to any government. It is still in the stage of field trials and safety testing, as well as testing to find out if it works as intended.
The International Rice Research Institute that is coordinating the project says “Golden Rice will only be made available broadly to farmers and consumers if it is successfully developed into rice varieties suitable for Asia, approved by national regulators, and shown to improve vitamin A status in community conditions. If Golden Rice is found to be safe and efficacious, a sustainable delivery program will ensure that Golden Rice is acceptable and accessible to those most in need.” Click here for a status update from the International Rice Research Institute.
Genetically modified Golden Rice falls short on lifesaving promises: GMO activists not to blame for scientific challenges slowing introduction, study finds, by Gerry Everding, Washington University in St Louis, June 2, 2016
Don’t Eat the Yellow Rice: The Danger of Deploying Vitamin A Golden Rice, by Ted Greiner, Independent Science News, July 11, 2016
“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 also 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, and will not be ready for several years.
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).
- “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?”