As if we didn’t have enough problems already GM rice approval seems to be just around the corner! Yup, “scientists in the Philippines are weeks from submitting a genetically modified variety of rice to the authorities for biosafety evaluations.
They claim it could be in the fields within a year, but national regulators will have the final say.
Supporters say it will help the 1.7 million Filipino children who suffer vitamin A deficiency – which reduces immunity and can cause blindness.
But campaigners say “Golden Rice” is a dangerous way to tackle malnutrition. Malnutrition is a complex issue not simply solved by manufacturing a rice to provide a specific vitamin.
They say that it threatens the Philippines’ staple food.
The fields at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), in Nueva Ecija, just north of Manila, look just like the other thousands of rice paddies that make up the Luzon landscape.
Apart from the tall fences surrounding them, you would never guess they were being used to grow rice that had been genetically modified to produce beta-carotene.
The body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A and scientists estimate that one cup of Golden Rice could provide up to 50% of an adult’s recommended daily intake.
The rice has been engineered so that the precursor chemical is expressed in the edible grain as well as in the non-edible leaves, where it occurs naturally.
Golden Rice is No silver bullet
Mr Okompo advocates more government spending on their Organic Agriculture Programme, argues that a more diverse harvest contains naturally high levels of Vitamin A and other nutrients, making Golden Rice redundant.
“Malnutrition is a broader issue, therefore the solution needs to be broader also,” he explained.
“The more important thing is alleviating poverty, providing more diverse seeds to farmers so they can grow more diverse crops and having more diverse food and a more balanced diet. Then there would be no vitamin deficiencies at all.
“There are so many natural sources of Vitamin A, especially in tropical countries: almost all green and leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables and fruits like mangos and cantaloupes.”
Dr Medina added: “We have a variety of sweet potato which has five times the level of Vitamin A than there is in Golden Rice. Ecologically, this is more sustainable and it’s the way agriculture should be in the future.”
It seems that corporations are looking for a singular solution to a complex human issue which is so prevalent in poverty stricken regions. It seems negligent to create or manufacture an unknown product to solve a problem that exists simply because of a lack of education and of course economic resources when a solution to the problem exists naturally in their own backyards!