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[SANET-MG] cosmetic GM crops
I think that it is safe to say that golden rice is a "cosmetic "
product, it has too little vitamin A to alleviate the deficiency but if
the level of Vitamin A was elevated significantly the patentee risks
lawsuits from those suffering vitamin A poisoning leading to birth
defects and liver damage. The cosmetic product poses no threat and
provides publicity for the patentee.
High iron threatens males eating red meat along with their rice through
development of hemochromatosis. As well elevated iron may be associated
with enhanced arsenic poisoning. Of the problems with rice high arsenic
may be the most immediate threat in Asia and that is the problem easily
solved by conventional plant breeding.
In the world of biotechnology it seems that "cosmetic" products are
preferred over real products because they pose little or no risk to the
GM rice controversy boils over
October 1, 2004
Golden Rice is genetically altered and contains vitamin B and iron
Scientists and environmentalists continue to be at loggerheads over a
genetically modified strain of rice developed in Switzerland.
Its supporters say “golden rice” is a milestone in the history of
genetic engineering, but opponents have accused them of making empty
“This is intellectual fraud,” said Clément Tolusso, press officer for
the environmental group, Greenpeace, in western Switzerland.
The continued debate over the pros and cons of golden rice comes as the
United Nations celebrates the International Year of Rice.
In 2000 a group of researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology in
Zurich succeeded in transmitting to a grain of rice the ability to
produce beta-carotene – which the body coverts into vitamin A – and to
increase iron content.
In Asia, where rice is the main food for millions of people, vitamin A
and iron deficiency is a serious problem.
These essential dietary components are found in animal products, fruits
and vegetables, which are not always available to poor families.
A lack of these nutrients can cause anaemia, vision loss or a weakened
immune system, and is one reason for the high rate of mortality and
illness among women and children in developing countries.
Those behind golden rice believe the genetically modified organism (GMO)
marks an important step in the fight against malnutrition.
“The idea is to provide a food that can at least partially make up for
these deficiencies,” Rainer Holzinger, a scientist at the Institute for
Plant Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich,
But critics of golden rice and GM foods in general argue that these
products are not the answer.
“The problem is not that there isn’t enough food for everyone,” says
Tolusso. “It has to do with the accessibility and stockpiling of food.”
A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated that the
real causes of hunger and malnutrition are poverty and lack of access to
And these are two problems that transgenic foods do not address, say
Greenpeace also claims that an adult would have to eat at least 12 times
the average intake of 300g of rice a day to get the daily recommended
amount of vitamin A.
Campaigners are also concerned about the wider implications of what
might happen should golden rice and other GMOs take the place of
Varieties created and selected through genetic engineering are richer in
nutrients and more resistant, which makes them more competitive than
But these artificial products are the property of the company that
invents them. Swiss biotech firm Syngenta, the world’s leading
agribusiness, holds the patent in the case of golden rice.
To fight this “undue appropriation”, around 30 Asian non-governmental
organisations have written numerous letters of protest.
Farmers in developing countries, who ought to be the greatest
beneficiaries of these innovations, have also come out against a
globalised agricultural system dominated by multinationals such as
Syngenta and Monsanto of the United States.
But researchers insist the aim of GMOs is not to create monopolies or to
introduce new farming techniques, but to try to improve nutrition and
health in many developing countries.
“There are various possible approaches,” said Holzinger. “Transgenic
rice may be a legitimate answer.”
swissinfo, Luigi Jorio
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