*This page was produced by Ashley Cain as part of an assignment for an undergraduate course at Davidson College*
Praise for Golden Rice
The development of golden rice sparked a great deal of controversy. Golden rice, however, had many unique characteristics that lead to a great deal of praise for its creation. Unlike many genetically modified organisms golden rice benefits “not just the farmer but also the consumers who eat it” (Nash, 2000). To much of society the potential benefits of golden rice outweigh the possible dangers.
Over three billion people in the world depend of rice as a staple food. Ten percent of these people risk vitamin A deficiency (Nash, 2000). Deficiencies in vitamin A can lead to night blindness as well as xeropthalmia and keratomalacia, disease that cause total blindness (Ye et al., 2000). One quarter million children become blind each year due to vitamin A deficiencies. These deficiencies also lead to an increased susceptibility to infections and childhood diseases (Burkhardt et al., 1997).
Traditional means of avoiding vitamin A deficiency include supplementation and fortification. These methods do not function well in developing countries where farmers grow and consume their own food. This food cannot be fortified prior to consumption and proper means of distributing supplements are not available (Burkhardt et al., 1997). Based on these problems researchers believe that the best way to alleviate vitamin A deficiencies is through biotechnology and the development of genetically modified organisms.
In addition to the nutritional benefits of golden rice, its developers hope to give the rice to farmers in developing countries free of charge. Due to the fact that the developers worked in the public realm they can work without the need for support of an industry. In order to give the rice away the developers had to obtain permission from the patent holders of all the genes and technology used in the development (Nash, 2000). The developers reached an agreement with former biotech company Zeneca in which the company obtained commercial rights to the rice and would use its financial power to fight for the right to give away the golden rice seeds (Potrykus, 2000).
Based on these advances golden rice's developer, Ingo Potrykus lists several reasons to praise golden rice. Among these reasons he includes the fact that golden rice does not benefit industry but benefits the poor and gives a free of cost solution to the problem of malnutrition in developing countries (Potrykus, 2000). Due to these and numerous other reasons golden rice may be an example of biotechnology that seeks to improve the world's food supply.