Monday, 21 May 2012

Genetically Modified Food: Golden Rice

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that is needed particularly for growth and development, cellular respiration, and color vision. Vitamin A deficiency causes one to have night blindness, weak immune system and ocular malfunctions. Sources of Vitamin A are considerably abundant ranging from vegetables like carrot, pumpkin, and dark green leafy vegetables, dairy products such as eggs, cheddar cheese, and also in a variety of orange-colored fruits. Even so, people in the developing countries, particularly the Philippines and Bangladesh still seem to be lacking Vitamin A due to inability to afford from various sources. Those groups that are more prevalent would be growing children, or pregnant and lactating women because of their increase in nutrient requirement [Zimmermann and Qaim, 2004] [3]. In order to fight this, organizations have been distributing supplements fortified with Vitamin A to these countries. Owing to high cost of distribution, the organizations then came up with Golden Rice, where a gene containing beta carotene from maize is inserted into rice grains. The beta carotene is then converted into Vitamin A, which gives Golden rice its yellow color.

                                                            (Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, 2007)

The subject is grown according to the designated study, harvested and processed. A 36 days trial were conducted which consist of 2 parts. Firstly, five healthy volunteers are asked to consume breakfast consisting of rice combined with Vitamin A supplement. The second part is, after a few days, they were to consume similar breakfast with Golden Rice. Blood samples of the five volunteers were then taken, measured, analyzed and interpreted. Finally, the results turned out to be positive where vitamin A from Golden Rice has been fully absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, which is a better result than those with Vitamin A supplement. [1]

As promising as it seems, Golden Rice is still at the stage of research and development. Other nutrients other than Vitamin A might be incorporated into it in the near future. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that there are still better and more guaranteed solutions like encouraging the locals to grow Vitamin A-rich food, fortify food that is already available in the market, or taking supplements to fight Vitamin A deficiency. On the contrary, many researchers believe it to be very potential to reach people because it is easily accessible and more affordable as rice is produced and consumed widely. [2] Golden Rice is still undergoing research and is yet to be tested for human consumption, or environmental impact that causes social actors to speak out against the interests of science. But if this revolutionary grain could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives, is it morally wrong to limit and constrain its development? As the social worlds battle this argument out, it has caused Golden Rice to come to a halt in its development until all social actors and worlds come to an agreement over its fate. 

Tang G, Qin J, Dolnikowski GG, Russel RM, Grusak MA, 2009. ‘Golden Rice is an effective source of vitamin A’. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Pages 1776–83.
       Golden Rice could save a million kids a year, viewed 14th of March, <>
       Roukaryatou Zimmerman, Matin Qaim 2004. ‘Potential health benefits of Golden Rice: a Philippine case study’, Food Policy, Volume 29, Issue 2, Pages 147–168. 

The Moral dilemma, n.d. Viewed on 13th March 2012.  <>

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