ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  3 December 2000


While Prakash's pro-GM list tends to include, as we've seen, hate contributions accusing environmentalists of nazidom, madness, murder etc, a few brave souls post sceptical comments to AgBioView .

Here's Red Porphyry's response to golden rice developer Potrykus, whose recent article we put out a week ago. The Shiva article RP refers to can be seen at:

*  *   *
Subj: Re: AGBIOVIEW: The "Golden Rice" Tale: Potrykus
From: Red Porphyry <>

Dr. Potrykus' article describing his quest to make golden rice will no doubt prove to be an important contribution to the history of science. From a purely technical standpoint, golden rice is clearly an advance in genetic engineering. Whether golden rice will actually prove to be of
any real significance in dealing with the problem of vitamin A deficiency in Asia is another matter entirely.

What I've found most interesting in the recent back-and-forth about the virtues/vices of golden rice on this list is that noone bothered to respond to an article written by Vandana Shiva (archived message #872) a few weeks back that went by the rather cheeky title "Golden Rice is a Hoax".

The most pertinent passages of that article are the following:

*   The problem is that vit. A rice will not remove vitamin A deficiency (VAD). It will seriously        aggravate it.  It is a technology that fails in its promise. Currently, it is not even known how much vit. A the genetically engineered rice will produce. The goal is 33.3 micrograms/100g of rice. Even if this goal is reached after a few years, it will be totally ineffective in removing VAD. Since the daily average requirement of vit. A is 750 micrograms of vit. A and 1 serving contains 30g of rice
according to dry weight basis, vit. A rice would only provide 9.9 micrograms which is 1.32% of the required allowance. Even taking the100g figure of daily consumption of rice used in the technology transfer paper would only provide 4.4% of the RDA.

In order to meet the full needs of 750 micrograms of vit.A from rice, an adult would have to consume 2 kg 272g of rice per day. This implies that one family member would consume the entire family ration of 10 kg. from the PDS in 4 days to meet vit.A needs through "Golden rice".

Given that the ultimate (hoped for) goal for vitamin A production in golden rice is only 33.3 micrograms vit A per 100 gm rice (dry weight), it seems clear to this interested layman that Asian agriculture ministers should not put the cultivation of golden rice high on their list of viable
solutions to the problem of vitamin A deficiency in their respective countries. While it would have been nice had Shiva also provided the RDA of vitamin A for babies and small children as well as how much rice (dry weight) per day they can realistically be expected to eat, her basic point
is well-taken.

More importantly, for the average Joe, it's clearly
expressed, easy to understand, and points to obvious implications.

Any interested layman who reads both Potrykus' and Shiva's articles is,
unfortunately for the pro-biotech side, going to come to the conclusion
that Shiva has both a better practical understanding of the situation in

Asia and is better able to see the big picture than Potrykus. For better

or worse, the average Joe will therefore likely reject a strategy that depends on the planting of huge paddies of golden rice and instead support the continued use of vitamin A supplements and vitamin A fortification of foodstuffs in conjunction with Shiva's suggested solution that larger-scale propagation and consumption of vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables be encouraged in Asian countries.



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