Golden years ago by German researchers with funding

Golden Rice has been developed to solve the
problem of vitamin A deficiency, which affects millions of people in the
developing worlds. However, as a precautionary means, the crop was offered
to the authorities for a safety evaluation, which was interrupted when a group
of around “400 protestors attacked the field trial in the Bicol region and
uprooted all the Genetically Modified (GM) plants” (Mcgrath 2013). The project,
initially started 20 years ago by German researchers with funding from the
Rockefeller Foundation, relied on modifying the rice through the addition of
additional genes that produce beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A
in the digestive process (Mcgrath 2013). Vitamin A deficiency is a significant
problem in developing countries, which is why golden rice provides such an
attractive solution to prevent unnecessary defects and death, especially among
younger populations. Yet, farmers from the Philippines are avidly rejecting
this crop option because of fears of damage it may cause, while also arguing
that they have other solutions for the Vitamin A deficiency problem. However,
the “Allow Golden Rice Now!” campaign is led by Dr. Patrick Moore, and aims to encourage
government and people in Philippines to accept Golden Rice as a nutritional and
necessary addition to their daily diet, with an emphasis on GM rice serving as
a much necessary golden bullet. (Allow Golden Rice
Now.org)

To understand the need for golden rice, one
must first understand the devastation wrought by Vitamin A deficiency, which is
responsible for causing blindness and reproductive and immune system problems.
It is responsible for the death of approximately 670,000 children around the
world in each year, and it is the leading reasons of preventable blindness in
children. It is an enormous affliction affecting populations in more than half
the world’s countries, especially the economically oppressed. Therefore, golden
rice is one of many proposed solutions to combating VAD, and shows promise for
its implementation despite the controversy surrounding it (Anonymous, 2011). 

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Previous studies indicated
that golden rice offers a variety of benefits, including producing more than 23
times beta-carotene than that of its regular rice counterpart  (Paine, 2005). Additionally, according to Prud’homme Genereux,
there is a need of certain “dietary fats and zinc” to get a handle on
and hold beta-carotene for the assimilation of vitamin A (Prud’homme Genereux).
Thus, when consumed, golden rice provides a sufficient amount of beta-carotene
to contribute to wellness to the consumer, with no adverse side effects to the
human body. Furthermore, because it is cost-effective, it will certainly serve
as a huge benefit to the excessively poor, making it possible to consume
sufficient vitamins for ensure a general standard of health, even in the
absence of dietary variety of quantity in an individual’s diet.

Furthermore, golden rice is funded by
multiple organizations, both profit and non-profit, and genes were collected
from companies willing to donate. Genes were taken from a daffodil and a
bacteria pantoeaananatis in order to complete an already partially existing
Beta-carotene pathway to allow polished rice grains to contain Vitamin A.
Golden rice is as effective to enrich oil and more effective than spinach in
providing children with vitamin A. As golden rice will also be grown by the
people who need it, it will provide a more sustainable solution than imported
oils and tablets that have to be distributed every four months. Thus, without
question, it is clearly a more viable option than the interventions currently
in place to increase Vitamin A; yet, despite this reality strong opposition
still remains (Beyer 2010).

At present, there are two strong arguments
against golden rice specifically, rather than against GMO’s as a whole. The
first argument is that golden rice fails to address the root causes of VAD,
namely poverty and a lack of access to good nutrition. “One argument brought up
by opponents of Golden Rice is that it might interfere with existing vitamin A
supplementation and fortification programs and campaigns. This argument is used
to suggest that we should opt for the status quo” (Mayer, 2005). Critics also
argue that rather than implementing golden rice, which will only solve the
problem of only one micronutrient, people should focus on planting community
gardens that grow a variety of micronutrient-rich crops. However, each town
would need separate training, resources, and support, whereas for golden rice,
a rice-growing infrastructure is already in place (Mayer 2005). To ensure
successful growing of golden rice, all people need is basic education on what
the new rice is and how to get started. They will also save the seeds which
will allow for planting in the subsequent years without international support.
Golden rice has the unique ability to help minimize VAD while gardening
programs are being implemented, ensuring that VAD would not occur in years with
a bad harvest from the community garden.

The other potent argument against golden rice
is that it will be rejected because it is a foreign crop with an odd color.
However, there is one case that parallels golden rice perfectly to show that
golden rice can be implemented successfully. Orange sweet potato (OSP) was bred
for higher vitamin A content to replace white and yellow sweet potatoes as a
staple crop in Uganda. OSP, like golden rice, changed the staple crop color
from white to orange and was first viewed with concern or hesitation. To combat
this, OSP was introduced to many farming households, and a study (Hotz, Christine, et al 2012) on
them showed that with just a yearlong program of education in nutrition and
farming best practices. This study also reveals farming families significantly
reduced their consumption of white and yellow sweet potato in favor of OSP
because of their high Vitamin A content. Subsequently, VAD in Uganda was
reduced. This shows that golden rice, which is also a foreign crop with high
Vitamin A content and a different color, could also be successfully implemented
in a similar way. Through building grassroots efforts focused on education to
empower women, OSP greatly impacted the Uganda community, especially decreasing
child mortality, and it believed that golden rice can have similar powerful
impacts if implemented quickly and carefully (Hotz, Christine, et al 2012).

There are a variety of factors stalling the
implementation of golden rice into local communities, including fears about GMO
products and other unanswered questions about nutritional testing. Yet, the
reality of the situation is quite simple: with golden rice, communities will
become healthier and stronger; without it, they will continue to sustain
unnecessarily high levels of blindness and potential death due to Vitamin A
deficiency. Furthermore, it will aid in VAD reduction and complement bio-diverse
community gardening programs. Also, it can successfully be implemented
regardless of its foreignness or odd color, if a similar course of action is
followed as with the OSP project in Uganda. Golden rice can and will save lives
without causing harm; thus, protests against its implementation have no
justification.