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Golden rice isn’t the panacea for Vitamin A deficiency

The reason that golden rice has not been cultivated in third-world nations isn’t so much that it isn’t accepted by people who fear eating a genetically modified rice but rather that varieties for commercial production aren’t available.

The rice, which is genetically modified to include health-inducing levels of beta-carotene (vitamin A), is not grown mainly because of agronomic reasons claims Tom Philpott in an article published on

The ability to add beta-carotene (vitamin A) into rice was discovered in 2000, Philpott reports the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) still hasn’t figured out how to develop a variety of golden rice that comes close to producing comparable yields to conventional rice.

If golden rice was available, it would have to be priced at a premium. The original goal in developing the rice was to counter vitamin A (beta-carotene) deficiency of under nourished children. Diet deficiency in vitamin A is and has been the leading cause of blindness in children in many parts of the world where rice is the staple food in their diets. The worst regions are the Indian subcontinent and Africa. None of these people could pay a premium for golden rice, and they aren’t eager to eat it anyway.

Philpott claims that golden rice’s health effects have not been proven sufficiently. He cites a lack of studies proving that the beta-carotene can be taken up by a child eating a low-fat diet, which is the case with malnourished individuals. Because vitamin A is fat soluble, the contention is that unless the vitamin A is accompanied by sufficient dietary fat it will not be providing health effects.

Ag Professional, March 02, 2016

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