Could Golden Rice, a genetically modified strain of rice that imbues the grains with beta carotene, be the GMO that proves the exception to the Monsanto-led madness of Roundup Ready crops? Amy Harmon reports for the New York Times:
One bright morning this month, 400 protesters smashed down the high fences surrounding a field in the Bicol region of the Philippines and uprooted the genetically modified rice plants growing inside.
Had the plants survived long enough to flower, they would have betrayed a distinctly yellow tint in the otherwise white part of the grain. That is because the rice is endowed with a gene from corn and another from a bacterium, making it the only variety in existence to produce beta carotene, the source of vitamin A. Its developers call it “Golden Rice.”
The concerns voiced by the participants in the Aug. 8 act of vandalism — that Golden Rice could pose unforeseen risks to human health and the environment, that it would ultimately profit big agrochemical companies — are a familiar refrain in the long-running controversy over the merits of genetically engineered crops. They are driving the desire among some Americans for mandatory “G.M.O.” labels on food with ingredients made from crops whose DNA has been altered in a laboratory. And they have motivated similar attacks on trials of other genetically modified crops in recent years: grapes designed to fight off a deadly virus in France, wheat designed to have a lower glycemic indexin Australia, sugar beets in Oregon designed to tolerate a herbicide, to name a few.
“We do not want our people, especially our children, to be used in these experiments,” a farmer who was a leader of the protest told the Philippine newspaper Remate.
But Golden Rice, which appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 2000 before it was quite ready for prime time, is unlike any of the genetically engineered crops in wide use today, designed to either withstand herbicides sold by Monsanto and other chemical companies or resist insect attacks, with benefits for farmers but not directly for consumers.
And a looming decision by the Philippine government about whether to allow Golden Rice to be grown beyond its four remaining field trials has added a new dimension to the debate over the technology’s merits.
Not owned by any company, Golden Rice is being developed by a nonprofit group called the International Rice Research Institute with the aim of providing a new source of vitamin A to people both in the Philippines, where most households get most of their calories from rice, and eventually in many other places in a world where rice is eaten every day by half the population…
[continues at the New York Times]