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Golden rice

Golden rice was a strain of rice created in 1999. It was made through genetic engineering and is considered to be a genetically modified food.

The rice was created by Ingo Potrykus of the Institute of Plant Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. It was made by inserting the necessary genes for producing beta-carotene[?] (taken from the daffodil) into the rice genome. The work was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and took eight years to complete.

Fighting blindness

Golden rice was immediately pronounced as a boon to the millions of children who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency, which can cause blindness. Because many of these children rely primarily on rice for their diet, the introduction of Vitamin A into rice could help prevent blindness in many of these children.

Potrykus therefore wished the technology to be distributed for free, and many of the companies that subsequently took out derivative patents agreed to license it for free. This was mostly due to the huge public relations boon that golden rice brought about; it was the first genetically modified crop that was inarguably beneficial, and thus met with widespread approval.

Disapproval

Though the biotechnology industry touted the crop as a lifesaver (since betacarotene is an antioxidant, golden rice was claimed to help fight cancer, heart disease and a host of other diseases) and made full use of it to polish the tarnished image of genetically modified foods, golden rice nevertheless met with negative responses.

The most prominent was an article by Vandana Shiva, an Indian anti-GMO activist, entitled The Golden Rice Hoax. Shiva essentially argued that the problem was not particular deficiencies in the crops themselves, but problems with poverty and loss of biodiversity in food crops - problems which are aggravated by the corporate control of agriculture, e.g. genetically modified foods. By focusing on a narrow problem (vitamin A deficiency), Shiva argued, the golden rice proponents were obscuring a larger issue (the inavailability of diverse and nutritionally adequate sources of food to a large number of people).

Regardless, the technology never got off the ground - despite widespread interest it remained mired behind regulations and legal issues and has yet to see broad usage.

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