Remember “golden rice”, the genetically modified (GM) rice containing a gene that encodes for beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A? The developers of golden rice had hoped that the rice would solve the problem of vitamin A deficiency in many regions of the world. Just 50 grams of the newer strains of cooked golden rice provide 60% of the minimum daily requirement for Vitamin A.

Opposition to GM foods is much stronger outside the U.S., where golden rice was most likely to be planted and consumed (the U.S. is not a major rice consumer). Golden rice soon came under attack by international environmentalists and anti-GM foods activists around the world, who saw the rice as a potential threat to the environment and a risk to human health. Their opposition to golden rice (indeed, to any GM foods, regardless of potential benefit) caused the company holding the patent on golden rice to abandon its plans to commercialize it, and it was never planted commercially. However, that may change soon. According to an article in The Guardian, golden rice may be approved for planting in the Philippines as early as next year.

The resurgence of interest in golden rice more than a decade after its development coincides with a decline in opposition to GM crops generally. After all, we now have 30 years of experience with GM crops, and quite frankly, the kinds of disasters predicted by the opponents of GM foods have simply not materialized. With continued vigilance to ensure that GM crops are safe, GM crops are likely to continue to gain in acceptance.

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