Seeing clearly: The benefits of Golden Rice.

 Photo by IRRI Images | flickr.com

Photo by IRRI Images | flickr.com

Golden Rice is a genetically modified rice developed to include β-carotene (Pro Vitamin A). Scientists created this rice to address the deficiency of vitamin A in children of developing countries who lack access to nutrient rich diets. Extreme vitamin A deficiencies are causing many children to go blind. By modifying the rice to include β-carotene, children receive the proper nutrients they need to maintain strong visibility. There is a significant number of children that go blind each year. Most families in developing nations do not have the means to provide varieties of vegetables, fruits and animal products that contribute to healthy development. Golden Rice is a viable solution because it contains the nutrients children need while maintaining the same price and accessibility as their traditional diet. Introducing a new form of rice will still allow people to maintain their traditional values. The only changes evident right now for people who consume the rice is a declining number of children going blind due to Vitamin A deficiencies.

As great as this rice sounds, it has been a controversial topic with many environmentalists. The immediate benefits of the rice are recognized, as it provides children with the Vitamin A they need. However, it is important to note that the long term implications of digesting generically modified foods are still unknown. One thing known about these crops is that, just like other genetically modified crops, degrade soil and cause desertification at a faster rate than organic crops. Promoting the rice further encourages the monopoly created around genetically modifying crops, as well as creating a “band-aid” solution for the complicated issue of malnutrition and food scarcities.

 

There are other potential solutions to this crisis. Instead of putting the efforts and resources into scientifically creating these crops, the money and brain power could be invested in other strategies. Focusing on getting these children better access to natural sources of Vitamin A and eradicating malnutrition and food scarcities is a superior option that is possible. This is a complicated issue, yet as we continue to discuss and debate it, fewer children are going blind because they are getting the vitamins they need.  

Andrea Moscoe