We have already talked other times about the situation in which golden rice is, after more than 20 years of research and millions of dollars of investment. Although it has been used for years as a public relations tool to justify the introduction of transgenic crops and foods in impoverished countries (even, many times, saying that it is a victory that has already saved millions of children, which is manifestly false), It is true that this rice has been stagnant for years in its development phase, in stages of plant improvement that try to find a line that produces rice in sufficient quantities. Questions about its safety, as well as other questions related to its use and conservation, have not yet begun to be raised.
This news item published by Washington University in St. Louis introduces the article published in the scientific journal Agriculture & Human Values in which Glenn Stone and Dominic Glover (specialized in the socioeconomic aspect of global agricultural trends and in cropping systems rice, respectively) explore the causes of this stagnation.
Title: GMO Golden Rice fails to deliver on its promises of salvation
Origin: Washington University in St. Louis
Author: Gerry Everding
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Hailed on the cover of Time magazine in 2000 as a genetically modified crop (GMO) with the potential to save millions of lives in the Third World, Golden Rice is still years away from being introduced to the field, and may even Then fall short of the great health benefits frequently cited by GMO advocates, suggests a new study from Washington University in St. Louis.
"Golden Rice is still not ready for commercialization, but we did not find much data to support the frequent claim that it is environmental activists who have stalled its implementation. Opponents of GMOs have not been the problem," said the lead author. , Glenn Stone, professor of anthropology and environmental studies in Art and Science.
First conceived in the 1980s and with its own research line since 1992, golden rice has functioned as a lightning rod in the battle over transgenic crops.
Proponents have long praised this innovation as a practical way to provide poor farmers in remote areas with a subsistence crop capable of adding much-needed vitamin A to their local diet. A problem in many poor countries in the Global South, Vitamin A deficiencies leave millions of people at risk of infection, disease and even blindness.
Some anti-GMO groups view golden rice as a Trojan Horse with excessive hype that biotech companies and their allies hope paves the way for global approval of other, more profitable GMO crops.
Its advocates often claim that environmental groups like Greenpeace are to blame for slowing down the introduction of golden rice and thus prolonging the misery of poor people suffering from vitamin A deficiencies.
In a recent article in the journal Agriculture & Human Values, Stone, along with his co-author Dominic Glover (a rice researcher at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex) claims to find little data to support the notion of that anti-GMO activists are to blame for the broken promises of Golden Rice.
"Rice just hasn't done well in the experimental fields of the Philippine Rice Improvement Institutes, where most of the research is done," Stone said. "It has not even been sought approval from the regulatory agency, the Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI)."
"It is true that a few months ago the Supreme Court of the Philippines decreed a temporary suspension of experimental GM crops," Stone said. "Depending on how long it lasts, this suspension could clearly affect the development of transgenic crops. But it is difficult to blame this recent action for the lack of success of Golden Rice."
Although activists did destroy an experimental golden rice plot in a 2013 protest, it is unlikely that this action had any significant impact on its approval.
"The destruction of experimental plots is a questionable way of expressing opposition, but this was only a small plot of the many plots that have existed in different places for many years," he said. "Also, critics of golden rice have been called 'killers' for more than a decade."
Stone, an internationally recognized expert on the humane side of global agricultural trends, was one of the first to advocate keeping an open mind when it comes to "humane" GM crops like Golden Rice.
It has also supported the development of a genetically modified line of cassava, a high-starch root crop consumed by subsistence farmers in much of Africa. Unfortunately, efforts to develop a genetically improved, more productive and disease resistant cassava variety also appear to be a long way from being introduced into the field, he notes.
"Golden rice was a promising idea, backed by good intentions," Stone said. "Unlike anti-GMO activists, I said I deserved a chance to succeed. But if what we're really interested in is the welfare of poor children - and not just the fight over GMOs - we have to evaluate without bias. possible solutions. The facts are simply that after 24 years of research and improvement, Golden Rice is still years away from being ready for commercialization. "
Since 2013, Stone has led a Templeton Foundation-funded project for rice research in the Philippines. His studies compare golden rice with other types of rice developed and cultivated in the country. Among these are the "Green Revolution" high-yielding rice lines, developed in the 1960s in an attempt to industrialize rice cultivation, as well as "traditional" indigenous varieties that have long been cultivated in the spectacular terraces of the Cordillera Central of northern Luzon.
As part of the Golden Rice initiative, researchers have introduced genes into existing rice lines to make these transgenic plants produce the micronutrient beta-carotene in the edible part of the grain. The presence of beta-carotene gives the genetically modified rice a yellow hue, hence the name "golden."
As Stone and Glover point out in the article, researchers continue to encounter problems developing beta-carotene-enriched lines that produce just as well as the non-GMO lines that farmers are already growing.
Researchers in Bangladesh are also in the early stages of confined field trials with golden rice, but there are serious doubts about the ability of these attempts to progress faster than those in the Philippines.
Even if a line of rice that is productive enough for poor farmers to grow through genetic modification, it is unclear what real impact this rice would have on children's health.