The GE industry has touted the benefits of golden rice for decades. Time magazine in 2000 predicted it would save millions of children every year from blindness. Children in third world countries would benefit because it was genetically engineered to include beta carotene and supply the needed vitamin A for healthy eyes. This was the moral high ground the industry needed to distract and redirect the public from the inherent dangers of genetically altering food.

Golden rice has a distinctive yellow coloring because of the genes expressing beta carotene within it. Glenn Stone and co-author Dominic Glover, a rice researcher at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, published an article assessing the performance of golden rice in the 2016 edition of the journal Agriculture & Human Values. “The rice simply has not been successful in test plots of the rice breeding institutes in the Philippines, where the leading research is being done,” Stone said. “It has not even been submitted for approval to the regulatory agency, the Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI)…Golden Rice was a promising idea backed by good intentions…The simple fact is that after 24 years of research and breeding, Golden Rice is still years away from being ready for release.”

Researchers point out that it is still not known if the beta carotene in Golden Rice can even be converted to Vitamin A in the bodies of badly undernourished children! Beta carotene needs fat to turn into vitamin A. If the vitamin A is improperly formed, it can result in the creation of retinoic acid leading to disease. Very little research exists to document how well the beta carotene in Golden Rice will last when stored for long periods between harvest seasons, or when cooked using rudimentary methods typical of remote geographical locations. (https://source.wustl.edu/2016/06/genetically-modified-golden-rice-falls-short-lifesaving-promises/)

The $100 million investment in field trials has failed on many fronts. In the meantime, the Philippines managed to slash the incidence of Vitamin A deficiency by using non-GMO methods which were vastly cheaper and more effective. The lesson learned via this expensive, falsely-advertised, poster child was that it didn’t work and a lot of money was thrown away which could have benefited poor people with real, natural, sustainable solutions. But no one counts that cost.

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