Greenpeace, Golden Rice and vitamin A deficiency

Last edited 4 November 2010 at 4:26pm

Greenpeace campaign about Golden Rice

Our 2001 campaign explained that there are cheaper and more effective methods of tackling vitamin A deficiency than genetically-engineered Golden Rice

Golden Rice was first presented as a rice variety that was genetically engineered to produce pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene) with the aim of solving the problems of vitamin A deficiency which can result in blindness and even death, and occurs predominantly in developing countries.

While golden GM rice promiseda lot, it has so far delivered absolutely nothing after over 10 years of expensive research.

All the hype has come at a price, because there are alternative ways to tackle vitamin A deficiency and they've been undermined by the focus on a silver bullet technology that does not tackle the underlying social and economic drivers behind vitamin A deficiency.

Since Golden Rice was presented, solutions such as growing vegetables alongside rice and taking vitamin A supplements have proven to be very good working solutions for vitamin A deficiency in places like Bangladesh.

In some countries these solutions helped to virtually eliminate the blindness of children induced by vitamin A deficiency. For example, in Bangladesh where vitamin A deficiency was considered one of the worst public health problems 20 years ago, it is now being successfully tackled by a combination of supplementation and home gardening. By looking at the root causes of the problem and implementing a range of projects, vitamin A deficiency was not only eradicated, but other malnutrition problems associated with a lack of basic nutrients were tackled at the same time.

"GE rice could, if introduced on a large scale, exacerbate malnutrition andundermine food security because it encourages a diet based on a single industrial staple food rather than upon the re-introduction of the many vitamin-rich food plants with high nutritional value that are cheap and already available," says Professor Klaus Becker, from University of Hohenheim, Germany.

So far Golden Rice has not delivered any real solutions to combat vitamin A deficiency, but has distracted public awareness away from available solutions that are likely to be cheaper, more effective and more sustainable for the environment.

But the GM industry is trying to sell Golden Rice as a magic solution. Their strategy is misleading the public, they are oversimplifying the actual problems in combating vitamin A deficiency and diverting attention from other, more effective solutions.

The real solutions are sometimes hi-tech and sometimes very simple. Golden Rice is not, at present, a solution.

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