After 20 years, the Philippines is now the first country to approve Golden Rice for commercial production! The country recently gave Golden Rice the green light for cultivation. The conclusion: Golden Rice is just as safe as any other rice.
It’s been a rocky road for a crop that should’ve been a no brainer.
What is Golden Rice?
Golden Rice is genetically modified rice that contains significant amounts of Vitamin A. In some parts of the world, Vitamin A deficiencies are a real problem among poorer populations who rely on a rice-heavy diet. Rice contains no beta-carotene, which the human body converts into Vitamin A. As a result, children often develop diseases associated with Vitamin A deficiencies, like impaired vision and blindness. According to the World Health Organization, Vitamin A deficiency affected about 250 million preschool children in 2012.
Golden Rice is a possible solution. Just one bowl of Golden Rice provides 60 percent of a person’s daily Vitamin A needs. Syngenta scientists developed the crop in 1999. Although it’s a GMO, Syngenta agreed not to commercialize the gene, meaning rice farmers in those regions can plant it without a license, save the seeds, and plant it again. Farmers can buy it at the same price as non-GMO rice seed.
So what’s the problem?
In a word, Greenpeace.
The activist organization stood in the way of Golden Rice reaching the market almost as soon as it was developed. Why the opposition? Because genetic engineering. Greenpeace has concluded that biotechnology is scary and bad, so it stood in the way of this life-changing crop obtaining regulatory approvals. In fact, Greenpeace’s stubbornness is nothing short of criminal. While millions of kids suffer the consequences of a Vitamin A deficiency, Greenpeace has actively stopped one of the easiest solutions.
The reality is that none of their objections hold water, and now the Philippines government has reached the same conclusion–Golden Rice is safe.
We’re a long way from solving the problem
Obviously the Philippines isn’t the only place on Earth where Vitamin A deficiencies are a problem. There are lots of other countries across Asia and Africa that need this crop. And a lot of those places still don’t have regulatory approval.
But the Philippine may just be the first domino to fall. My hope is that this will set off a chain reaction. As farmers grow Golden Rice and it reaches communities, those vitamin deficiencies will go down and we’ll start to see healthier children. That may just be enough for others to take notice and act by allowing commercial cultivation of Golden Rice. And, who knows, maybe this will be the spark that increases acceptance of all genetically modified crops.
So this is an incredible announcement. I hope it’s the first of many!