Rice farmers in the Philippines destroyed about ten acres of golden rice growing in an experimental field.
Golden rice is a genetically engineered rice that creates its own vitamin A. Conventionally bred rice does not contain vitamin A. Nearly two million people die from vitamin A deficiency each year. Another 500,000 go blind from the lack. NGOs like the Micronutrient Initiative distribute doses of vitamin A to a large number of vitamin A deficient people twice each year, preventing many deaths and up to 70% of the blindness. Those groups recommend that more frequent doses of vitamin A (such as through vitamin A-rich foods) be given to people.
People would need to eat about a half cup of golden rice each day to receive the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. However, absorption of vitamin A by the body requires fat in the diet. A study conducted on healthy adult Americans and published in 2009 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that it would take about two cups of golden rice each day to meet the RDA for vitamin A.
The government-owned rice field is fenced and covered by nets to prevent animals from carrying the rice to other fields, but the farmers worry that golden rice will escape and contaminate their fields. They worry that they will experience a boycott of their exports similar to the problems wheat farmers in the U.S. faced in May of this year when genetically modified wheat was found growing wild in a farmer’s wheat field.
Golden rice field photo via Shutterstock