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).
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid