Genetically modified foods, or GMOs as they are known, have been a source of ongoing controversy, largely due to the notorious manipulation of DNA. However, more and more scientists are becoming convinced that genetically engineered plants could end the global problem of food shortages. In fact, a plant called golden rice may have saved millions of lives in the past few years, but regulations still don’t allow it to be grown.
White rice is one of the most consumed plants in the world. In many countries, it is a staple of the daily diet. However, it has some deficiencies in its composition that need to be supplemented. Not all inhabitants of the mentioned countries can afford it, so they get sick and die due to vitamin deficiencies.
Up to one in three children worldwide under the age of five may suffer from vitamin A deficiency, or VAD for short, a condition that causes, among other things, night blindness and severely weakens the immune system.
According to the WHO, up to half a million children lose their sight every year because of it. Half of them die within 12 months of contracting the disease.
Back in 2000, biologists Peter Beyer and Ingo Portykus presented the world with a proposed solution to this problem: golden rice. A genetically modified version of classic rice that synthesizes beta-carotene in the endosperm of the seeds. It’s the provitamin A that makes our bodies produce the right vitamin A.
But two decades after the breakthrough invention, global restrictions still effectively inhibit the ability to get golden rice to hungry people and contribute to the death and blindness of hundreds of thousands of children.
Genetic modification continues to arouse suspicion among much of the public and lawmakers around the world. According to some scientists, this is completely wrong. According to them, it is just a primal fear of something unknown and the result of demonizing new solutions that could help people.
However, in his latest book “Gloden Rice: The Imperiled Birth of GMO Superfood”, Ed Regis claims that it is not the public opinion that is the biggest obstacle to solving vitamin A deficiency problems.
In his view, the main barrier is the regulations contained in the 2003 Montreal Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The protocol introduced a whole range of limits and restrictions on the development, testing and distribution of many GMOs, including golden rice, making further research on it and its breeding virtually impossible.
According to Regis, the authors of these recipes had no reason to consider modified rice unsafe, because to this day there is not a single shred of evidence of this.
Instead, there is a body of evidence pointing to the good qualities of the Beyer and Porticus plant. It was banned only by the fact that it is genetically modified. The author of the book blames the creators of the Protocol for the death of millions of people around the world.
However, some people see a light at the end of the tunnel. In 2018, golden rice was finally declared safe in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. On November 15, 2019, Bangladesh will make a decision on it.
If the government there agrees to grow modified rice, it will be the first Asian country to perhaps start a new era in the fight against the problem of malnutrition in the world.