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Golden rice

It’s really a carroty-orange colour, but that doesn’t carry with it the associations with value and excellence that golden has. The rice is this colour as a side effect of genetic modifications that add beta-carotene to the seeds, a substance that human beings can turn into Vitamin A. Millions of malnourished people worldwide don’t get enough of this vitamin in their diet; lack of it leads to blindness and greater susceptibility to disease. It is hoped that the level of beta-carotene can be made high enough to provide the average person eating 300g of rice a day with all the Vitamin A he or she needs. The modified plants have other genes that double the amount of iron in the rice, to combat another dietary deficiency that can lead to anaemia. The new variety of rice was created in Switzerland with financial backing by the Rockefeller Foundation. Unlike some other genetically modified crops, the seeds will be widely available to farmers in developing countries without conditions being attached; for example, farmers will be able to keep seed to sow next year’s crop. The new rice should be available in two or three years’ time.

The result is “golden rice” — yellow grains that contain enough beta-carotene to supply all of a person’s vitamin A needs.

New Scientist, Aug, 1999

The new green revolution driven by biotechnology will vastly improve the nutritional value and pest-resistance of basic food crops, such as the new vitamin-A rich “golden rice”.

Washington Times, Mar. 2000

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.

Page created 15 Apr 2000