ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
 
Date:  13 December 2000

GOLDEN  RICE  TECH  TRANSFER  -   more on the Golden Rice HOAX

1.    Talks On For Golden Rice Tech Transfer
2.    url for Dr Vandana Shiva's article 'THE GOLDEN  RICE  HOAX'
3.    Red Porphyry's Rice of Doom Questions and Answers

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1.    Talks On For Golden Rice Tech Transfer - more on the Golden Rice HOAX

Below is a very interesting article from India's Hindu Business Line on Golden Rice which indicates how it is being pushed in India.  It also refers specifically to the issue raised by Vandana Shiva about its inadequacy as a source of Vit A. It says:

"Referring to the controversy raised by environmentalists that the new strain would not be able to provide adequate Vitamin A supplements, Dr. Khush quoted Indian nutrition experts buttressing his argument that golden rice would indeed provide reasonable nutritional help to the malnourished."

But the question is: how much help?  The figures - see below (the url for the original Vandana Shiva article and Red Porphyry 's points, as per yesterday's post, which are a  commentary on Shiva's figures) seem to say not much - yet the alternatives can provide plenty!  The question of such alternatives is also dealt with in the article below:

"On another argument that people could eat carrots and other leafy vegetables to get their Vitamin A needs, Dr. Khush asked, "when the poor in the developed [?] countries are not even able to afford rice, how can they buy carrots?"

But this is very strange - if they can't afford the rice, how do they sustainably afford hi-tech rice?!  And if the answer to that is that you can give them the hi-tech rice, why not give them the carrots  and other leafy vegetables which are available NOW, have no unknown risks, and are higher Vit A yielding (see Vandana Shiva's figures in her article – url below).

It is easy to see why Shiva has concluded that while the complicated technology transfer package of "Golden Rice" will not solve vitamin. A problems in India, it is a very effective strategy for corporate take over of rice production, using the public sector as a Trojan horse.

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[c/o Monsanto: http://www.biotechknowledge.com/showlib.php3?4197 ]
Talks On For Golden Rice Tech Transfer
by M. Somasekhar, Hindu Business Line, 08 December 2000

‘Golden rice’, the genetically-engineered rice fortified with Vitamin A on which agrochemical multinationals hold patents, has raked up a controversy with environmental activists questioning the Government’s moves to bring the technology to India.

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) had held a series of meetings with both the Swiss and German team of inventors with a view to formalising a technology transfer agreement.

Would the technology come without any strings attached?  Noted agriculture scientist and rice-breeder, Dr Gurdev S. Khush, said that the co-inventor of ‘golden rice’, Prof. Ingo Portrykus, had agreed to give the rights to transfer the technology free of cost to scientists in the developing countries. For this purpose, he had also obtained the permission from multinationals such as Astra-Zeneca, Monsanto and others, who held the patent rights for the rice variety, he told Business Line.

Dr Khush, who was now with the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and also an adviser on India’s rice-genome project, said, “we at IRRI are also negotiating with Prof. Portrykus to get the technology. Our plans are to use genetic engineering techniques”.

He said, “the inventors cannot give the technology free unless they have got the necessary clearances”. Once the technology was obtained, scientists would have to transfer the genes into a locally grown high yielding variety.

At present ‘golden rice’ was undergoing trials and it was unlikely to end up on the dinner table before 2003.  If India obtained the technology now, it would take at least 4-5 years before it could be made available for cultivation, Dr. Khush said.

The variety was claimed to be a new strain of genetically-engineered Vitamin A rice, developed by a group of Swiss and German scientists to produce beta-carotene, a pre-cursor of Vitamin A giving it a golden hue.  The UK-based Zeneca and the Germany-based Greenovation acquired the exclusive rights in May this year for the new strain.

Referring to the controversy raised by environmentalists that the new strain would not be able to provide adequate Vitamin A supplements, Dr.  Khush quoted Indian nutrition experts buttressing his argument that golden rice would indeed provide reasonable nutritional help to the malnourished. [how much help - the figures seem to say not much - yet the alternatives can provide plenty]

On another argument that people could eat carrots and other leafy vegetables to get their Vitamin A needs, Dr. Khush asked, “when the poor in the developed [?] countries are not even able to afford rice, how can they buy carrots?”
[but if they can’t afford the rice - how do they afford hi-tech rice - and if you can give them hi-tech rice, why not give them higher Vit A yielding carrots!!]

However, the issue of selecting the right type of rice variety to inject the Vitamin A gene for conducting trials and the questions of technology transfer were still being discussed by Indian agriculture scientists.  Meanwhile, Prof. Ingo Portrykus was slated to participate in the 88th session of the Indian Science Congress to be held during January 3-7, 2001 in the Capital. The focal theme of the Congress is ‘Food, nutrition and environmental security’.

Copyright 2000 Hindu Business Line All Rights Reserved

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2.    url for Dr Vandana Shiva’s article
    ‘THE GOLDEN  RICE  HOAX  -  WHEN PUBLIC  RELATIONS  REPLACE  SCIENCE’
    http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/11.htm

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3. Subj:  Re: AGBIOVIEW: Rice of Doom - Questions and Answers
From:  Red Porphyry <porphyry@vnet.net>
 
A few days back I asked the members of the list four relatively simple questions regarding the vitamin A nutritional quality of golden rice.  Since noone was able to publicly provide answers to
them, I ended up checking into them myself. Here again are the questions I originally asked and what I was able to find (in brackets):

1)    Is the RDA for vitamin A in adult humans 750 micrograms or not? If not, what is the true
       RDA?

[Shiva's claim that the RDA for vitamin A in adult humans is 750 micrograms is basically correct. The numbers I found give a range of between 700 and 1,000 micrograms]

2)    What is the RDA for vitamin A in human babies and small children (say, under the age of
        five)?

[Shiva provided no number for this. The RDA for babies and small children is actually 375 micrograms.]

3)    Is the ultimate goal of Potrykus and co-workers to produce a strain of golden rice that
       produces at most 9.9 micrograms of provitamin A / 30 gm of rice (dry weight) or not?
       If not, what is the realistic maximum level of provitamin A /30 gm of rice (dry weight)
       that Potrykus and co-workers hope to achieve?

[The answer to this appears to be yes. At some point in the future, golden rice ("golden-tinted rice" is actually the more accurate descriptor) is expected to ultimately provide a maximum of 9.9 micrograms of provitamin A /30 gm of rice (dry weight), which is an average adult serving. So, for adults, one serving of golden-tinted rice will provide a maximum of about 1.3% of the RDA of vitamin A.  For babies and small children, one "adult-sized" serving of golden-tinted rice will provide a maximum of about 2.6% of the RDA of vitamin A. Assuming the only rice Asians eat from now on is golden-tinted rice, adult Asians can expect to obtain at best 4% of the RDA of vitamin A from golden-tinted rice, while Asian babies and small children can expect to obtain at best 8% of the RDA of vitamin A from golden-tinted rice.]

4)    Given whatever the answers are to 1), 2) and 3), does golden rice provide a viable solution
        to  the problem of vitamin A deficiency for humans in Asia or not? If not, are there any viable
        alternatives?

[The answer, unfortunately, is basically no. Golden-tinted rice is not, nor is it likely to ever be, a viable solution to the problem of vitamin A deficiency for humans in Asia. At best, it's a curiosity best suited (due to its color, in my opinion) for special Buddhist religious festivals. At worst, it will only lead to false hope for Asians. The *viable* alternative is a combination of (1) expanded use of vitamin A supplements (preferably produced by local pharmaceutical companies), (2) local legislation mandating the fortification of white rice with vitamin A, and (3) adopting Shiva's suggestion that the growth and consumption of fruits and vegetables that are *truly* high in  provitamin A content be encouraged (and, if necessary, government-subsidized) wherever possible. For example, Asian mothers should be taught to mix cooked pureed carrots into every portion of rice gruel that they serve their babies.

At the very least, pro-biotech scientists should discourage and denounce vigorously any such statements appearing in the popular press such as the following:

"By splicing a gene containing beta-carotene (commonly found in carrots) into normal rice, researchers have produced a strain capable of preventing the vitamin A deficiency that each year blinds millions of Third World children."

(AgBioView Archive Message #921: Genetically Altered Foods are the Key to Feeding Increasingly Hungry World).

Demonstrably false and reckless statements such as the one quoted above will, in the long run, do nothing but irreparable harm to the pro-biotech cause.]

Red
 

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