News / Asia

Hunger in Focus: Three Questions on Golden Rice

Golden Rice gets its yellow color from beta-carotene, or provitamin A, inserted into the strain of rice to enhance its nutrition value (Golden Rice Project).
Golden Rice gets its yellow color from beta-carotene, or provitamin A, inserted into the strain of rice to enhance its nutrition value (Golden Rice Project).

As part of VOA's special coverage of food and hunger issues, we are putting the spotlight on the Geneva-based Golden Rice Project. The group has come up with a creative yet controversial way to pack more nutrients into grains of rice. Its team has used genetic engineering to make "Golden Rice," a strain of rice that contains pro-vitamin A, a crucial ingredient in healthy immune systems.

Project manager Adrian Dubock says this strain of "super rice" could benefit millions of hungry and malnourished people.  But, he tells VOA, it has not yet hit the market because there is still opposition to manipulating the genetic makeup of this essential grain.

Why did you produce Golden Rice?


Vitamin A deficiency kills around 6,000 people every day, affecting their immunity. So normal childhood diseases, for example, become lethal. About half of the world's population everyday eats rice, that's about three billion people. And in some of the poorest populations, about 80 percent of the carbohydrate intake is from white rice. White rice doesn't contain anything really other than carbohydrates, so they are short of minerals. Vitamin A deficiency is the biggest problem, and if they were able to have a balanced diet of vegetables and animal products, they wouldn't suffer from that. But unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, often to do with poverty, and sometimes to do with religion, they don't have enough animal products or colored vegetables or fruits to allow them to have normal vitamin A status.

Why hasn't this been approved for consumption around the world?

We are moving towards regulatory clearance of it, initially in the Philippines. There is a lot of politics around the technique of genetic modification, largely as a result of an international protocol agreed between nations back in 1992, when very little was known about genetic modification. And those regulations have resulted in national regulations within the scope of those international regulations, which creates some suspicion in certain populations about the technology.  Why would you need to regulate it so much if it wasn't something to be concerned about? It's that kind of idea. That suspicion has allowed some groups who are opposed to the technology to build on that suspicion and cause political concern about the technology.

Many international organizations - for example, the scientific academies of all of the major countries in the world - have come out and said there is no problem with genetic modification per se as a technology for either the health or the environment anywhere in the world.

Many people are uncomfortable with issues of intellectual property protection, with issues of corporate control of food supplies, with issues of the possibility of creating new dependencies, especially in developing countries. And many people think genetic modification as a technique may be somehow a "Trojan horse" to allow private sector companies to create these new dependencies and control food supplies.  This is a very narrow view of the technology and it is incorrect, but nevertheless some people hold to it.

What is the next step?

For the last four or five years, the project has been a breeding project, putting the Golden Rice trait into varieties of rice which are preferred by and grown in the conditions of Asia, which is where most of the Vitamin A deficiencies occur in rice-consuming populations. It is a fact of this project that there's no profit involved for anybody. It's a totally humanitarian project. The trait will be made available free of charge to those growers and consumers who want to have it available to them. And our initial work in developing countries has suggested that there is no concern in the populations that are affected by Vitamin A deficiency about either its color or its method of production. They're much more interested in providing their families with good nutrition. And for them, cost is very important.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs