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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs