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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More