This is golden rice, a GM crop that could save hundreds of thousands of lives, and protestors have vandalised the test crops.
Golden rice is the first GM crop to go through rigorous tests, and first to be trailed in the Philippines, with expected role out in 2014.
The field of GM crops angers a lot of people and has become a contentious issue in the past.
I fully support the use and development of GM crops. Having a background in genetics, I know that the testing and work to get anything like this, anywhere near role out is very impressive, an that all aspects concerning safely will have been full researched and covered
Golden rice has been developed to produce beta carotene, a natural chemical that is found vegetables such as carrots (it gives carrots their orange colour and makes the GM rice gold). I is also produced naturally by rice plants, however in the indelibly leaf.
When beta carotene is ingested the body utilises it to produce vitamin A. Vitamin A is used by the cells in the eye to make opsin ‘the sight chemical’, without vitamin A, eyesight deteriorates. The first symptom is night-blindness, followed by being fully blind.
Globally (majority of which are developing countries) 670,000 people die annually for vitamin A deficiency with a further 350,000 going blind. In the Philippines it is estimated that a huge 1.7mn children under 5 suffer with some sort of vitamin A deficiency.
In developing countries, rice is the staple, and a cup of golden rice can provide half the daily requirement for vitamin A.
However, while in trail fields in Philippines, one of the test field has been attacked, with all the crops up rooted and trampled.
This attack was done due to ignorance. The group have since released a statement saying that the crop was “a danger to human health and biodiversity” and “GM crops are not the answer to malnutrition in the Philippines”. This is of course rubbish.
There are no fears for human health, as the amount of rice needed to be consumed for Vitamin A overdose is ludicrous, and there are no other side effects.
In response to biodiversity, there is no other alteration that would decrease biodiversity, (there are some GM crops that produce their own pesticides, which still have to be tested and developed further (as in all aspects of science, if there are any fears, they are tested extensively to eliminate them)), but golden rice would just add to the biodiversity and not reduce from it; offering an alternative for those suffering with vitamin A deficiency.
It is a shame that backwards thinking is halting progress, although the development will continue regardless, there are other non-vandalised testing sites, and the future will look brighter in less developed worlds with the availability of golden rice.