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Friday, 1 November 2019

Excessive regulation of genetically modified rice crops would cost the lives of many children around the world


According to scientific writer Ed Regis, golden rice would cause millions of unnecessary deaths as well as many cases of blindness among poor children. Indeed, he describes in detail the tragic situation of the golden rice in his last book.

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What is golden rice? It is a genetically modified variety of rice (Oryza sativa). It was created at the ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich). Golden rice has been genetically modified to include beta-carotene, a chemical that our body can use to produce vitamin A. Namely, vitamin deficiency is a major cause of preventable childhood blindness in the world. In fact, nearly 500,000 children become blind each year.


Lack of vitamin A can also increase the risk of death from childhood diseases and infections. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this problem is widespread in more than half of the world's countries, especially in Africa and South-East Asia. Although supplements can help fill this gap, WHO notes that fortification is a more direct way to tackle the problem, but in the long run. And it is exactly for this purpose that the golden rice was developed at first.

Although yellow rice has existed since the beginning of the century, it has not yet found its way to the populations that need it most in Asia ... In the new book by Ed Regis, titled Golden Rice: The Imperiled Birth of a Superfood GMO (Golden Rice: The Dangerous Birth of a GMO Superfood ), the author claims that the authorities are mainly to blame.

It should be noted that Greenpeace has strongly expressed its opposition to the introduction of golden rice and genetically modified crops in general. The organization claimed that the promotion of golden rice was motivated by commercial interests, that it had not been proven that it actually increased vitamin A levels (although clinical trials seem to indicate otherwise) and that it was diverting attention from other attempts to end child poverty.


Although many controversies over gold rice research continue to fuel debate among scientists, the main problem, according to Regis, is the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. This international treaty, concluded in 2003, makes it very difficult to introduce GM crops around the world, assuming that these foods are dangerous until their safety is proven, not the other way around.

Such regulations exist because of the irrational fears of GMOs, ignorance of the science involved and over-observance of the precautionary principle ," said Regis.

Although we can all agree that health should always be a priority, Regis says that the potentially life-saving effects of golden rice (we are talking about 670,000 lives a year!), Would "  mitigate a little the approach "Prevention is better than cure ".

" In Bangladesh, China, India and elsewhere in Asia, many children survive only through a few bowls of rice a day, and almost nothing else,  " says Regis in his book. "  For them, a daily supply of golden rice could help preserve the gift of life that is sight,  " he continues.

This is a debate that has raged for many years: in 2016, more than 100 Nobel laureates signed a petition condemning the blockage of genetically modified products such as golden rice, noting that no negative results for health had been registered for humans or animals.

In 2018, a review of more than 6,000 studies concluded that GMOs lead to increased yields and important health benefits: this is convincing evidence that foods like golden rice are worthy of mention. to be grown to potentially improve diets in the poorest regions of the world.

Hope for golden rice?

It should be noted that it is currently approved only in four countries: Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada. But some scientists hope that it will also get the green light in Bangladesh and the Philippines by the end of the year, where it is sorely lacking.


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