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Here's Sparty's " Golden Rice"


Golden Rice "Panacea" exposed as a con

This is a damning indictment of the Golden Rice Project, revealing wildly exaggerated claims for the so-called "benefits" of Golden Rice, fraudulent science (again) and technical data which has been systematically kept hidden from the public. The "Golden Rice Humanitarian Board" (supported by the Gates Foundation) is shown to be far more interested in the commercial aspirations of Syngenta and the other GM multinationals than it is in solving the real problem of Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries.
"The campaign for genetically modified rice is at the crossroads: A critical look at Golden Rice after nearly 10 years of development." By Christoph Then, January 2009 Commissioned by foodwatch in Germany
See: GoldenRice_english_final_ger.pdf

1 Introduction
The idea for the Golden Rice project arose during an international conference in the Philippines in 1984. (Enserink 2008.) In 1999, an initial success was presented to the public. A team which included Ingo Potrykus from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich had succeeded in inducing genetically modified rice to generate carotenoids. (Ye et al. 2000.) The human body can use this provitamin A to synthesise essential vitamin A. Since grains of rice took on a yellow colour from the provitamin, this variety was quickly named Golden Rice. A cover story in Time Magazine in 2000 raised high expectations: "This rice could save a million kids a year." (Time Magazine 2000.) The article meant that this strain could theoretically be used to combat the vitamin A deficiency (VAD) that poses a problem in many developing countries. Children in particular suffer serious health disorders if they don't receive enough food with carotenoids. Vitamin A deficiency can be life-threatening. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that some 250,000 to 500,000 children go blind every year, and that half of them die within 12 months. (Enserink 2008.)
There are various international programmes that combat VAD using relatively simple measures: they distribute vitamin A pills or are committed to promoting the cultivation of vegetables with carotenoids such as green vegetables, tomatoes, and carrots, as well as fruits like mangos. Even if the problem has not been solved in all regions of the world, existing initiatives in the past 10 to 15 years have already achieved a lot. The Micronutrient Initiative (MI), for instance, working together with the United Nations, reports: "MI’s key contributions to global progress over the past 15 years include: providing support for supplies of vitamin A supplements that benefit over 200 million children annually in 70 countries." (Micronutrient Initiative 2007.) In the end, combating VAD has less to do with new technological development than with setting clear political priorities. Even the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, which steers communications and research around the vitamin A rice, admits that it will not solve all problems: "Golden Rice is not a replacement for existing efforts to tackle the problem, but could substantially complement them in the future and make them more sustainable, especially in remote rural areas." (Humanitarian Board.)
Although the first varieties of Golden Rice initially produced very low amounts of carotenoids, open field tests in 2004 showed better results. Syngenta in 2005 introduced a new variety of the rice (Paine 2005), which it promptly registered for patenting. Compared to the 1999 prototype, this new strain produces a higher amount of provitamin A. The argument posed by critics that the amount of carotenoids contained in the rice was much too low to effectively combat VAD seemed thus to be defeated. Nevertheless, even three years after the presentation of this new variety and nearly 10 years after the production of the first Golden Rice, many questions remain unanswered. This overview will look at several problematic aspects of this project regarding technical quality and development, possible risks and social ramifications. We are calling for a fundamental and new assessment of the project, comprehensively taking into consideration the risks associated with genetically modified (GM) plants and alternative solutions for combating vitamin A deficiency.
2 Lack of technical data
A sample of rice grains was sent to Germany by the Golden Rice team in 2001 in order to test their technical quality in trials with mice. In particular, the tests were to find out how much provitamin A was absorbed in the intestines and how much of that could actually be utilised by the body.
When rice grains were tested for their carotenoid content before the actual experiment began, scientists were surprised to learn that the rice contained less than one percent of the amount expected. After the rice was cooked, this share was reduced by another 50 percent. As a result, the testing with mice was discontinued. If these findings, like so many other failures in research that have never been published, were to be verified, it would be certain that the quality of the rice at that time made it completely unsuitable for any real use. The specific findings of this trial with the first generation of genetically modified rice are today widely outdistanced. But fundamental technical questions in this connection still prevail:
How much carotene in rice degrades during storage?
No data has been published on this so far even though the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board confirms that there is a considerable need for clarity here. Officially, this was to be tested right after the first field trials in 2004: "Because of their chemical nature – several conjugated double bonds – carotenoids are susceptible to light and oxidation. The effects of light and air after harvest can be studied now that the first field trials have begun. From these studies it will be possible to make recommendations as to how and how long to store Golden Rice without losing its beneficial nutritive effects." (Humanitarian Board.) Even if rice is cultivated and eaten within a region, periods of storage can often be many weeks long. Decisive is what happens to carotenoid content during storage. The rate of carotenoid degradation is relatively easy to determine with standard technical methods. Systematic trials should have followed upon the test results at the German university in 2001 at the latest. It can be assumed that corresponding data is long since known to the managers of the Golden Rice project. Why haven't they published anything as yet (October 2008)?
How much provitamin A remains after cooking?
Rice can be boiled, steamed or even fried in many different ways. One publication stated that a 10 percent loss could be expected during the cooking of genetically modified first-generation rice. (Datta 2003.) However, this must be seen as a preliminary finding. To date there are still no data available on systematic trials with different cooking processes and how much carotenoid content is lost in each one. Research on the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board website to find an answer to this question brings up pages like Cooking with Golden Rice: "Golden Rice will be cooked just like any other rice, from using plain water to highly refined sauces and spices, and it will always taste good." (Humanitarian Board.) Instead of finding specific trial results, the website visitor can download recipes for Paella a la Valencia, Jambalaya, Thai Fried Rice and Pilaf Rice with Whole Spices.
How well can genetically modified rice be utilised by the body?
Another unknown is the conversion rate of genetically modified rice. The conversion rate (or bio-availability) provides information on how well carotenoids in rice can be absorbed and utilised by the human body. Estimates for GM rice fluctuate between 1:1 and 1:12. This question could be roughly answered by conducting feeding trials with animals, such as those trials originally planned at the German university which were discontinued. To date, nothing has been published on feeding tests. Without citing specific data and circumstances, an article in Science Magazine from April 2008 mentioned that tests done with volunteers had shown conversion rates of 1:3 to 1:4. (Enserink 2008.) Nevertheless, the really limiting factor is not the absorption of carotene in the intestines but much more so the storage and preparation of rice. In an advisory publication, WHO notes about the absorption of conventional vitamin A and carotene supplements in food: "Absorption of all forms is good (90%) but losses of vitamin A during processing, storage and food preparation may be high." (WHO 2006, p. 118.)
Although trivial basic data about storage and food preparation are still not available (as of October 2008), environmental organisations in particular have been accused for years of delaying the market introduction of GM rice again and again because of exaggerated criticism and calls for higher safety standards. A perception broadly accepted by journalists and fomented by Golden Rice managers was expressed by the journalist Ulli Kulke in June 2008 in an article in Die Welt, for instance. At the centre of the article was Ingo Potrykus, who contributed to the development of GM rice: "It has enough opponents surrounding it: environmental NGOs, governments, political parties, the Protestant church, trade organisations, part of the media and even farmers' lobbyists – all of them from countries in which no one suffers from vitamin A deficiency. But they are countries in which a closed circle of fear, populism, and vastly wealthy economic interests blocks the cultivation of plants like Golden Rice, so far with huge global success." (Kulke 2008.) But the fact that even trivial technical data, enabling us to assess the quality of GM rice, is still missing after almost 10 years, is willingly suppressed in this kind of reporting.
Even placing questions directly does not garner much information. Replying to an email from 8 May 2008 posing specific questions, Jorge Mayer from the University of Freiburg, who acts as speaker for the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, simply made a general announcement: "The bioavailability studies should be published approx by the end of the year, depending on the publishing speed of the journal. (...) I can only say that so far, results are even better than we expected, but because this is being done by an independent scientific research group, we cannot talk about their results. But believe me, they are very eager to publish those results, as soon as they have been corroborated by the last, ongoing trial."
This message is not only very vague, it is also contradictory. On one hand it states that making findings available depends only on how quickly a scientific magazine can publish them, and on the other hand it says that trials have not been fully completed.
Another query on why trivial data on losses during storage and from cooking haven't yet been published remains unanswered. No matter when and how these data are finally published, a communication strategy that posts recipes on a website and withholds basic scientific data hardly seems reliable, particularly if opponents are being made responsible for delaying the project at the same time. This secretiveness would be understandable at best if a company wanted to protect sensitive business data. But the Golden Rice project is ostensibly being managed for purely humanitarian reasons. It is therefore incomprehensible why there is not complete transparency here.
3 Possible risks
A fierce international controversy is raging over Golden Rice and other genetically modified varieties of rice. Following soy and maize, rice is now in the crosslines of gene technology. This is of supreme importance for developing countries. Although the commercial cultivation of insect-resistant rice has not been allowed in China, and in Europe the debate continues on approving the import of rice from the United States that is resistant to sprayed herbicides, GM rice has reached the European market – in 2006, GM rice both from the United States and China was found in Europe. While the rice from China had reached the market directly without approval from the authorities, the rice from the USA came from a cultivation experiment years earlier. Evidently the GM rice had been mixed in with seed production and had proliferated unnoticed for a longer period of time. In Germany alone, the trade suffered damages of some 10 million EUR because of this contamination with American rice, which the German government admitted when asked. It is evident that even small mistakes can quickly have consequences in global markets. The manufacturers of genetically modified seed lose control over their products far too quickly.
Albeit, the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board believes the problem is under control, claiming on one hand that rice generally doesn't tend to outcross, and on the other hand saying that even if intermixture does take place, it would really have to be seen whether this had any consequences: "While the chances of outcrossing to non- transgenic rice are very low (but not zero) the relevant issue is what effect the genes would have if outcrossing occurred." (Humanitarian Board.)
At the International Biosafety Workshop in Beijing in September 2008, a rather different assessment was reached for the time being. Accordingly, different varieties of rice in fields initially barely cross with each other. However, there are plants outside of fields that are potential partners for crossing, such as strains of wild rice and weedy rice. It appears that genetic crossing through pollen flight occurs much more frequently then direct crossing between cultivated strains of rice in the field. According to findings from Chinese researchers, the plants that grow from crossing GM rice and weedy rice varieties exhibit surprising characteristics – their rate of reproduction seems be higher due to changes in flowering and seeding patterns. This gives them an advantage over other plants and they can assert themselves more strongly in the environment than normal members of the same species.
This would make weedy rice a problem again for rice cultivated in fields. The seeds from weedy rice simply drop and can't be harvested. If this weed crosses with normal rice in the fields, it can lead to huge losses in the harvest. For this reason, weedy rice has always been feared and consistently combated. But now that more and more people are migrating away from the country and into cities, and there is less manpower available for agricultural work, the weed is spreading out again. This development could be facilitated by the improved fitness (increased rate of reproduction) of the varieties that have crossed with GM rice. There is the threat that outcrossings with GM rice will significantly aggravate the spread of weedy rice. Chinese scientists now want to look into this question more closely. If the dreaded scenario comes true, the cultivation of GM rice in China could become a time bomb.
Whether vitamin A rice also poses similar risks is unknown. To date there are no data available on risks to the environment posed by the fitness of plants crossed from Golden Rice and weedy rice, for instance. A read through the Humanitarian Board's website creates the impression that there are no risks, particularly because the existence of such a crossing has been denied from the very beginning.
Overall, the description of the risk assessment planned for GM rice is contradictory and by no means convincing. The Humanitarian Board here pursues a strangely zigzag route. Initially it states that it is committed to the highest safety standards: "The Golden Rice Humanitarian Board is committed to the highest standards of safety assessment being conducted, and Golden Rice will only be made available for consumption after clearance by the relevant authorities according to national laws." (Humanitarian Board)
The claim is made that genetic modification is no more dangerous than conventional plant breeding: "As concerns the genetic engineering step, conventional plant breeding involves the uncontrolled transfer and simultaneous random recombination of many thousands of genes from all parents involved. Therefore, safety concerns in respect of the deliberate and controlled transfer of no more than two genes, as in this case, is unwarranted." (Humanitarian Board.)
Altogether, the standards set for risk assessment are too high and too expensive, and they pose an insupportable burden for public institutions in particular: "An unbearable financial burden: (...) It is obvious that no scientist or scientific institution in the public domain has the potential, funding or motivation to perform such lengthy, expensive biosafety experiments." (Humanitarian Board.)
Ingo Potrykus takes these issues even further and calls for approval regulations to be generally loosened: "One of my most important concerns is therefore to return the approval process to realistic terms and initiate an objective debate on opportunities and risks. If this doesn't happen, entering the market will be delayed even more and developing countries will continue to lose ground." (Deichmann 2005.) According to the Humanitarian Board, many of the objections are not scientifically grounded and assume unexpected consequences and scenarios that are hardly realistic. The Board believes that, in general, unpredictable negative results are not likely to happen. This opinion very quickly overlooks the fact that even the yellow colour of Golden Rice is an unexpected consequence. When the production of GM rice was first underway, it was thought grains would be coloured red like the carotene in tomatoes. The transmitted gene was supposed to cause the formation of lycopene (red) and not ßcarotene. (Ye 2000.) But an additional unexpected step in metabolism took place in the rice which caused it to take on a yellow ('golden') colour instead. (Beyer 2002.) Such unexpected consequences alone should be enough to warrant comprehensive safety assessment.
4 Trials with schoolchildren?
The approval trials carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have been highly criticised. The authority generally assumes that genetically modified plants are 'similar' to conventional plants. This approach is questionable because modern molecular biology shows that it is an illusion that 'targeted' gene transmission will have no side effects. The network of gene regulation is much more complicated than originally assumed. Genetic manipulation, in contrast to conventional breeding, doesn't use the normal system of gene regulation. Indeed, the gene regulation of plants has to be properly broken down first to force a plant to accept a new metabolism. In addition, gene transmission is not targeted; it is a process of shotgun sequencing. More and more scientists see considerable deficiencies in this process of genetically modifying plants. A current research project financed by the German Ministry of Education and Research has publicly stated that: "Until now, new genes have been integrated in the genome at random. It is not known beforehand whether the desired trait of the gene will be observed if it is in a random place or even whether other genes in the plant are negatively influenced." (idw 2008.) Altogether one must assume that the concept of similarity as a basis for assessing risk is scientifically outdated.
It was seen in 2005 how justified the warning really is against the unexpected consequences of gene transmission. Bean genes were transmitted to peas, initially causing small changes in the protein; these changes made peas activate life-threatening reactions in the immune system. (Prescott 2005.) These effects would have been overseen in the EFSA's standard risk assessment procedures today. (Valenta 2008.) Even though the EFSA still relies on the outdated idea of 'similarity', this could still make things difficult for Golden Rice because the metabolism of this rice plant has been massively tampered with and its components have clearly changed. The genetic change involved does not aim to affect the plant's agricultural characteristics but to have an effect on health. In such cases, EFSA guidelines call for much more comprehensive testing than for currently cultivated or imported GM maize. According to EFSA guidelines, Golden Rice should be evaluated as a new organism no longer similar to conventional rice. Extended risk assessment is envisioned in such cases. (EFSA 2008.) The guidelines for such testing must still be worked out in detail. One thing is certain – currently standard testing is not enough in this case.
The Golden Rice Humanitarian Board has officially pledged to apply the highest safety standards. However, the team does actually seem to absolutely accept health risks. Even though no data from previous trials have been published that would show the harmlessness of Golden Rice, scientists are already planning to carry out trials with children. In 2008, trials were to be done with schoolchildren aged six to eight in China; these were cancelled by Chinese authorities who received relevant information from Greenpeace. (Bisserbe 2008.) Trials to be conducted by Tufts University in the United States had already been approved by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States health authority, but this rice would not have been taken through Chinese approval trials for imports and food. These tests are now presumably being carried out somewhere else. Although information on the planned Chinese tests has disappeared from the NIH website, there is still a general announcement that tests are supposed to be conducted with altogether 72 children. (Clinical Trials 2008.)
As described under point 2, pretrials with adult volunteers have already been run at Tufts University in Boston. The findings of these studies haven't been published yet. (Enserink 2008.) Independent scientists who have not been involved with these trials have not had the opportunity to check standards and findings before tests are carried out with schoolchildren. In general it is problematic that rice is tested with human subjects without data from previous testing being available. At least the persons participating in trials in the United States were adults. They could make a conscious decision to participate. But it's very different if trials are run with schoolchildren. If initial testing is supposed to be carried out with schoolchildren in developing countries, without broad public debate and without publishing the findings of previous trials, then it is clear that the Golden Rice team is under a lot of pressure.
The open question is to what degree institutions like the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill Gates Foundation, supporting the project with funding in the millions, actually share in this process. It can be feared that the Humanitarian Board will continue to push aside any criticism of its plans by drawing attention to the affliction suffered by millions of children. The website says: "It took ten years – from 1980 to 1990 – to develop the necessary technology to introduce genes into rice. It took another nine years – from 1990 to 1999 – to introduce the genes that reconstitute the pathway for provitamin A biosynthesis into the seed. And it took another five years – from 1999 to 2004 – to develop Golden Rice. It is taking several more years to advance the first Golden Rice product through the regulatory approval process. Considering that Golden Rice could substantially reduce blindness (500,000 children per year) and deaths (2-3 million per year), the parsimony displayed by the responsible bodies after 20 years is hardly understandable." (Humanitarian Board.)
5 A preliminary stocktaking
What began in 1999 with a surprising success in technology has now forced the hand of both advocates and critics of agricultural gene technology. Critics are aware of the drastic consequences of vitamin A deficiency for many people. They face the reproach that their criticism of the development of Golden Rice has led to delays and that they therefore share the responsibility for the fate of humans affected by VAD. Advocates have thus turned the introduction of GM rice rather into a test of conscience. But a closer look at the situation reveals that this argument has in the meantime turned back on itself.
Golden Rice was supposed to solve all problems at once – find acceptance for GM food, solve a real problem, simplify approval procedures, and muzzle opponents. Under the pressure of self-created expectations, the project seems to have partially slipped out of its managers' hands. Plans to conduct trials with schoolchildren in China at the present moment in the project's development are scientifically and ethically questionable and should lead to scientists and financiers fundamentally rethinking the whole project. If some kind of success is being sought in such a rush, the project seems to have far less to do with concern about humans affected by VAD than about implementing a certain technology.
If recipes for Golden Rice are posted on the Internet without at least some information being provided on how much carotene is in the rice after four weeks of storage and 20 minutes of cooking, then the project must face the suspicion that it is not about pursuing science to solve the problem of hunger but about making claims it cannot meet. If the project is to continue, scientists and financiers are best advised to make all data and information on its research absolutely transparent. Since the product is allegedly not being seen through for commercial interests, there is no reason to keep secrets. In addition, a broader and more participatory discussion process should be introduced in those regions of the world for which this product is intended, a debate in which critics and independent experts speak and in which the effort invested and the yield, risks and sustainability of the project are investigated from the bottom up. The managers of the project should take to heart the fact that, according to Science, specialists from WHO attribute more success to distributing vitamin tablets, fortifying normal food with vitamin A, and teaching people how to cultivate carrots and certain green vegetables, than to using gene technology. (Enserink 2008.)

6 Literature
Beyer P., S. Al-Babili, X.Ye, P. Lucca, P. Schaub, R. Welsch, and I. Potrykus. 2002. Golden Rice: Introducing the beta-carotene biosynthesis pathway into rice endosperm by genetic engineering to defeat vitamin A deficiency. In: Journal of Nutrition, 132, 506- 510.
Bisserbie, Noemie. 2008. Golden Scare: A new genetically modified rice strain ist breeding controversy. Banking/Golden-Scare.html Clinical Trials. 2008.
Vitamin A Equivalence of Plant Carotenoids in Children. +Disorders%22&rank =17
Datta, K., N. Baisakh, N. Oliva, L. Torrizo, E. Abrigo, J. Tan, M. Rai, S. Rehana, S. Al-Babili, P. Beyer, I. Potrykus, and S.K. Datta. 2003. Bioengineered ‘golden’ indica rice cultivars with ß-carotene metabolism in the endosperm with hygromycin and mannose selection systems. In: Plant Biotechnology Journal, 1, 81-90.
Deichmann, T. 2005. Die Hysterie europäischer Meinungsbildner gegen die Grüne Gentechnik ist auf die Entwicklungsländer übergeschwappt: Ingo Potrykus im Gespräch über neue Fortschritte bei der potenziellen Bekämpfung von Ernährungsdefiziten in Asien und das anhaltende Störfeuer aus Europa [The hysteria of European opinionmakers against green genetic technology has infected developing countries: Ingo Potrykus talks about new progress in combating nutritional deficiencies in Asia and persistent harassing fire from Europe]. In: Zeitschrift novo. http:// www.novomagazin. de/76/novo7630.htm.
EFSA 2005. Guidance document of the scientific panel on genetically modified organisms for the risk assessment of genetically modified plants and derived food and feed, adopted 2004. P. 13. 1178620753812_1178620775747.htm
Enserink, M. 2008. Tough Lessons From Golden Rice. In: Science, 230, 468-471. Humanitarian Board. 10 October 2008. Quotes from the website:
Informationsdienst Wissenschaft, press release, 12 August 2008. http://www.idwonline. de/pages/de/news273724
International Biosafety Forum – Workshop 3, September 24-26, 2008, Beijing, China, organised by The Nanjing Institute of Environmental Science, Ministry of Environmental Protection of China. Kulke, U. 10 June 2008.
Lebensrettendes Reiskorn hat mächtige Gegner [Life-saving rice has powerful opponents]. In: Lebensrettendes_Reiskorn_hat_maechtige_Ge gner.html.
Micronutrient Initiative. 2007. Five-year Strategic Plan, 2008-2013. In:
Paine, J.A., C.A. Shipton, S.Chaggar, R.M. Howells, M.J. Kennedy, G. Vernon, S.Y. Wright, E. Hinchliffe, J.L. Adams, A.L. Silverstone, and R. Drake. 2005. Improving the nutritional value of Golden Rice through increased pro-vitamin A content. In: Nature Biotechnology, 23, 482-487.
Prescott V. E., et al. 2005. Transgenic expression of bean a-amylase inhibitor in peas results in altered structure and immunogenicity. In: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 53, 9023-30.
Time Magazine. 31 July 2000. This rice could save a million kids a year. Vol. 156, No 5.
Valenta, R., and A. Spök. 2008. Immunogenicity of GM peas. In: BfN Skripten, 239. Bundesamt für Naturschutz: Bonn.
WHO. 2006. Guidelines on food fortification with micronutrients, ed. by Lindsay Allen et al. guide_food_fortification_micronutrients.pdf.
Ye, X., S. Al-Babili, A. Klöti, J. Zhang, P. Lucca, P. Beyer, and I. Potrykus. 2000. Engineering the provitamin A (ß -carotene) biosynthetic pathway into (carotenoid-free) rice endosperm. In: Science, 287, 303-305.

Topic starter Posted : March 24, 2015 11:48 am
Trusted Member

You are the best at copying and pasting. I give you the Golden Rice seal of approval. Nice sources btw. I won't be engaging any longer. You cherry pick dubious sources. Have a wonderful day

Posted : March 24, 2015 1:35 pm

Thank you! You have a lovely day as well.

Topic starter Posted : March 24, 2015 2:11 pm
Trusted Member

May I please add:

The Vitamin A deficiency problem is addressed by Vitamin A Supplements, manufactured by pharmaceutical companies and even available for purchase over the counter - they are not prescription products. The governments can ship in plane loads to depressed areas; therefore, the kids can benefit from the drug, the pharmaceutical manufacturers can make a mega -$$$- profit, and the governments can look like absolute heroes. End of Vitamin A Deficiency problem.

All of the information you share with us is important, Alana. It is a benefit to be able to research through several articles; that gives us the knowledge and balance we need to appreciate the problem (s) in order to help resolve them.

Volunteers are desperately needed in The Peace Corp and other human aid organizations in order to help less fortunate children in the world, including those with Vitamin A deficiency; perhaps volunteering would be a noble cause to consider for some.

Thanks, Alana

Posted : March 24, 2015 5:17 pm
Trusted Member

Vitamin A can easily be plentiful enough in golden rice which is part of the staple diet of those most affected. The fear of GMOS against the vast majority of scientific evidence which shows it to be safe is funny when the same people who bemoan that science are so quick to be in favor of the scientific consensus on global warming. I guess Big Agra has deeper pockets than Big Energy. Derp. Also remember Whole Foods has nearly the same revenue as the Evil Monsatan company.

Posted : March 24, 2015 8:41 pm
Trusted Member

It is also quite ironic that people who have never known hunger or nutrional deficiencies can sit on the sidelines and tell others what is best for them. ( this is not directed at anyone here, just these activists like GreenPeace)

The very definition of first world problems

Posted : March 24, 2015 8:46 pm
Trusted Member

ha Sparty

people like you, who believe in GMOs and golden rice, will be the first to succumb to the master plans of those groups who are trying to cull populations with the very substances that you embrace so wholeheartedly (yes I am a bit of a conspiracy theorist, albeit a middle of the roader)

Posted : March 24, 2015 9:47 pm

Yes, it is amazing that some people that have never known hunger or nutritional deficiencies can sit on the sidelines and cry for 600k children without doing anything about it like contacting major pharmaceutical companies and requesting donations of vitamins to reputable organizations such as Red Cross, Doctors Without Boarders, etc., to be distributed to children in need. Or putting a petition together or finding a way to help or fund or contribute to organizations that are on the ground in those countries actually helping feed those children and getting them the supplements they require. What are you doing to help them?

Vitamin A was not proven to be plentiful or adequate in your golden rice. See the info from above article:

"When rice grains were tested for their carotenoid content before the actual experiment began, scientists were surprised to learn that the rice contained less than one percent of the amount expected. After the rice was cooked, this share was reduced by another 50 percent."

I'm grateful to Greenpeace for saving whales lives and all the other great things they do while taking great personal risks to do so."

Let's face it! We need watch dogs for these mega corporations whose bottom line is profit above all else, including the health and welfare of humans while they sell products that pollute the air, water and earth, poison plants, animals, people and wildlife, including, probably, those 600k children that you're so concerned about while doing nothing to help them.

When you're actively involved and contributing to those children, let us know.

Topic starter Posted : March 24, 2015 10:39 pm

I'll bet none of you have eaten pigs brains or goat spleen yet somehow you are all experts on what we should eat. A starving person will eat dirt. Let's see your cut and paste on the nutritional benefits of dirt over other choices.

Posted : March 24, 2015 11:08 pm

Missed out on goat spleen but here's a link to article on nutritional value of dirt:

Topic starter Posted : March 24, 2015 11:41 pm
Trusted Member

ha Sparty

people like you, who believe in GMOs and golden rice, will be the first to succumb to the master plans of those groups who are trying to cull populations with the very substances that you embrace so wholeheartedly (yes I am a bit of a conspiracy theorist, albeit a middle of the roader)

Hardly "middle of the roader" with this comment. Do you get your tinfoil at Cost U Less?

Posted : March 25, 2015 12:21 am
Trusted Member

Would you like to see my donations? How dare your presumptions. We have watchdog groups. The FDA, EPA etc. You are a chemophobe plain and simple. You fear science. You can't comprehend this technology. I never said Golden Rice was the only answer but it could be part of the solution. You judge not only companies feeding the world but have the audacity to question me? You know ZERO about me.

Posted : March 25, 2015 12:27 am

The truth is FDA and even EPA don't always make the best decisions and often is fighting many battles on many fronts, including getting adequate funding, to continue to fight against against businesses engaged in damaging behaviour and products to order to protect us.

Where would we be, do you think, without an EPA or the many other organizations, that help safeguard the often times, unsuspecting and unaware public from being subjected to the machinations of billion dollar companies who put their profit margin over and above that of the health of humans, our environment and wildlife, etc.?

I am not attacking you personally as you are doing to me and those that support what I post or anyone that does not agree or fall in line with your particular viewpoint.

You seem to make a lot of presumptions and judgements about me and others that support what I post. I have no wish to continue to engage with you on any subject. Have a nice life and enjoy your GMO foods and all the toxic chemicals you wish to use and promote. It's your choice. The constant animosity and baiting from you has grown tedious, at best.

If you don't like what I post, don't read it.

Topic starter Posted : March 25, 2015 2:52 am

Here's an excerpt from a very length article:


Malnutrition is said to be high in rice-eating populations. But these nutritional problems are not caused directly by the consumption of rice. They reflect an overall impact of multiple causative factors similar to those of other developing countries where rice is not a major staple.8 Various deficiencies including zinc, vitamin C and D, folate, riboflavin, selenium and calcium occur in the context of poverty, environmental degradation, lack of public health systems and sanitation, lack of proper education and social disparity. Poverty and lack of purchasing power is identified as a major cause of malnutrition.9 These underlying issues that can never be addressed by golden rice.

The Green Revolution with its inherent bias towards monocultures of staple crops has led to unbalanced patterns of food production in many places. As the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has stated, variety is the key and should be the norm rather than the exception in farming systems. According to Dr. Samson Tsou of the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC), countries with vegetable consumption of more than 200 grams of vegetables per day do not have vitamin A deficiency as a major problem.10 Although animal sources are expensive, inexpensive plant food sources are widely available. It only takes two tablespoonfuls of yellow sweet potatoes, half a cup of dark green leafy vegetables or two-thirds of a medium-sized mango in a day to meet the vitamin A requirement of a pre-school child.11 This way, not only is the vitamin A requirement being addressed, but a whole range of other micronutrients as well.

With what has been shown so far, 300 grams of golden rice can only provide at most 20% of an adult’s daily vitamin A requirement (see graph). A child would have a lower requirement of 450 µg retinol as against 500-600 µg retinol for adults.12 But 300 g of rice a day is way too much for a child. In the Philippines, pre-school children consume less than 150 grams of rice a day. In principle then, golden rice will only supply a little over 10% of the daily vitamin A needed by pre-school children. And children are the target population in this case.

Whether the beta-carotene contained in golden rice will be bioavailable is yet another question. Dietary fat is needed for it to be absorbed by the body. Unfortunately dietary fat is also limited in rice-eating countries and in fact is being looked at as one possible "hidden" causes of vitamin A deficiency itself.13 There are also important interactions between different nutrients and minerals, which further warrants variety in food intake. Zinc deficiency, for example, may lead to an impairment of vitamin A metabolism. Disease control and hygiene, food selection and preparation will significantly influence absorption and utilisation of vitamin A (and iron). Furthermore, there has been debate over the bioconversion of beta-carotene from green leafy vegetables into vitamin A. Some reports claim that the conversion rate is less than one-quarter of what has been assumed up to now. Should this be the case, the amount of vitamin A made available from golden rice would be almost negligible.

Despite statements being made that there is not a slightest risk of overdosage from golden rice and conceivable risk to consumer health and the environment 14, no testing has been conducted. According to Dr. Mae Wan Ho, vitamin A poisoning has been known to result from excessive beta-carotene intake in food. Allergenicity has also been raised as a possible issue. Daffodil, which is the source of the genes for the beta-carotene rice, is responsible for an allergic reaction which manifests as "daffodil picker’s rash" in some people.15

Another excerpt:

Golden rice will supposedly be freely available to poor farmers. Although the notion of "free distribution" means free from royalties or added cost for the technology, for many farmers, cost does not only translate into monetary terms. For Mr. Afsar Ali Miah, a Bangladeshi farmer, "Nothing comes in free anymore, without its consequence, especially if it is driven by profit motives."

He relates this vividly with his experience in the 1960s when Green Revolution seeds were introduced. At that time, the technology was started with all out support from the government and many farmers responded positively making use of the packaged technology of modern high-yielding varieties together with pesticides, and chemical fertilisers and a certain amount of credit. But when the uncertainty and fear of new was mitigated, the government slowly started withdrawing support and the farmers were left to deal with poor soil, lost seeds and declining diversity in the field, and dependency on pesticides and fertilisers. In the process, farmers lost control of their food system. According to Mr. Ali Miah, "Because of pesticides, people are no longer eating what little edible green leafy vegetables (and fishes) there are left in the fields anymore. If we allow this golden rice, and depend for nutrition on it, we might further lose these crops, our children losing knowledge of the importance of other crops such as green leafy vegetables."

CGIAR's Technical Advisory Committee, IRRI should "Continue to campaign for GE as a legitimate breeders' tool, using the 'golden' rice as a flagship."17 In an interview with Dr. Potrykus, he said, "If some people decide that they want blind children and white rice, it’s their decision. I’m offering the possibility of yellow rice and no blind children. But the decision what people want to eat is theirs."18

However, Farida Akhter of UBINIG, an organisation working with marginalised farmers and weavers in Bangladesh is quick to point out that biotech companies are looking to the poor in developing countries because of the strong opposition to GE crops in developed countries, such as the EU and Japan. According to Akhter, the poor are a good target because they are less powerful and less able to make technology choices. She adds that, "While golden rice is still in its pre-introductory stage, it is being promoted as if the poor have been asked if they wanted it and said ‘yes’."

According to Daycha Siripatra of the Alternative Agriculture Network in Thailand and the director of Technology for Rural and Ecological Enrichment, vitamin A deficiency will not be solved by golden rice technology since it does not address the key to the problem of poverty, which is landlessness. "They're cheating us. If the poor had land, they would have better diets. The poor don't need vitamin A. They need vitamin L, that's Vitamin Land. And they need Vitamin M, that's Vitamin Money. Malnutrition is because of poverty, not [a lack of] technology."

Read the entire article here:

Topic starter Posted : March 25, 2015 3:14 am

ll that Glitters is Not Gold. GM Rice is Not a Solution for Vitamin A Deficiency

GM golden rice is pushed as being the solution to vitamin A deficiency in under developed countries. But is it really a good use of valuable aid funds? Are better solutions available? Is this a just a way for biotechnology to get a foothold?

Vitamin A deficiency, also known as Night Blindness, causes blindness and mortality especially in children. It is prevalent in areas of the world with micronutrient malnutrition, in particular South East Asia and Africa. The deficiency is caused by unbalanced diets. In particular lack of availability of leafy vegetables and reliance upon staple food crops like rice, which do not have adequate levels of vitamins.

The best solution is to have access to a balanced diet. This is not always possible. But there are solutions.

Scare tactics

Golden Rice is genetically modified rice that has been engineered to have elevated levels of Beta Carotene in it; a pre cursor of vitamin A, which gives it a characteristic golden colour. Its creators claim that their GM rice will save thousands of lives by providing Vitamin A in the daily diet of mostly rice- a case of treating the symptom, not finding a cure. The developers of Golden Rice claim that if this rice is not accepted then the resulting deaths from Vitamin A deficiency would be akin to a nutritional Holocaust. (Chassy, 2010).

However there are better, cheaper, proven and less controversial solutions to the problem of vitamin A deficiency than genetically modified rice.

Technical glitches

The Golden Rice project was first launched in 1999, but the idea has been around since the 1980’s. Despite claiming that regulatory hurdles and anti-GM campaigners are inhibiting the wide scale release of the rice; and it has become obvious that there are technical issues with the project.

The early strains of GM rice had such low levels of Beta Carotene in it that a child would have to eat 12 times more rice than normal to gain any benefit from it. This was never going to be a viable solution for countries that are food insecure as well as micronutrient deficient.

The importance of cultural diets

There is also concern that the rice type that has been modified is not suitable for the areas it is destined to target. The first two types that were modified were a short, fat rice type known as Japonica. This type of rice is traditionally eaten in Japan and Korea and not eaten by the areas that tend to suffer with vitamin A deficiencies. It can be assumed that this variety is easier to genetically manipulate than other varieties.

The first attempt of modifying this rice resulted in low levels of Beta Carotene as mentioned earlier. The second attempt had higher levels but the rice type was still not desirable or traditional for the target population so a third attempt and a second type of rice was modified. This Indica variety is widely eaten in South Asia, e.g. India, Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, which are the target areas for Golden Rice. There were early problems with yield in the Indica variety, so backcrossing to solve this problem also delayed the availability of the rice for field trialling.

These modified Indica varieties should have started field trials in 2009, but there is no data from this and there is still uncertainty about the levels of beta-carotene in this variety, it has not been tested for efficacy, or tested for Beta Carotene content after storage or cooking- two important stages of food production.

Contravening human rights

Safety concerns have plagued the Golden Rice project. In 2012 it came to light that that the rice had been tested on Chinese children without parental consent. This resulted in three of the scientists on the project being removed from their posts. This experiment was slammed by opponents to the project as they claim it contravened human rights, it was seen as a breach of medical ethics and the Nuremberg Code.

The data from this random experiment is not likely to be useful as a benchmark for vitamin A uptake from Golden Rice; as the children that were tested were healthy children with access to balanced diets- the metabolism and therefore uptake of vitamin A in malnourished children is likely to be significantly different. The project claims that 60% of the recommended vitamin A intake could be achieved by eating Golden Rice, but as the rice has not undergone any safety tests, it has the potential to create more problems than it saves.

Money at stake

The Golden Rice project was funded from four sources of public finance totalling $100 million: the philanthropic Rockefeller Foundation, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the European Community Biotech Program and the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science. As scientists from the Institute of Science in Society point out;

“There are already 70 patent claims on the genes, DNA sequences, and gene constructs used to make Golden Rice. Will the cost of paying royalties for the previous 70 patent claims be added to the cost of Golden Rice? Which of the royalties on the seventy-odd patents would the Third World farmers be absolved from paying? Rockefeller Foundation, the major funder by far, has reportedly abandoned the project to "shift its agricultural funding focus to support research that will have a more direct benefit to subsistence farmers."”

The International Rice Resaerch Institute (IRRI) which is now overseeing the development of Golden Rice says that current funding is coming from the Gates Foundation. “Our latest stage of work is now supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will bring in Helen Keller International (HKI), a new partner from the nutrition sector."

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is well known for it's charitable work but has been heavily criticised for promoting biotechnology in developing countries when it is not really in the best interests of local people because it diverts funding away from alternative and sustainable solutions for malnutrition and poverty. The 2008 IAASTD report, funded by the World Bank and four UN agencies- involved 400 scientists from 58 countries concluded that GM was not the future for agriculture, and that agroecological farming is the key to future food security.

Better use of funding

This vast sum of money could have been used to fund the World Health Organization’s projects, many of which are long-standing, to combat vitamin A deficiency. These projects include:

Vitamin A supplements, which are cheap and alone have thought to have reduced deaths by 24%. Education and development programmes. These programmes encourage mothers to breastfeed, as milk contains good levels of Beta Carotene, and there are projects that teach people how to grow carrots and leafy vegetables in home gardens, which is effective, inexpensive and addresses other micronutrient deficiencies by helping provide more balanced diets.

WHO says its programme has “averted an estimated 1.25 million deaths since 1998 in 40 countries.” According to WHO malnutrition expert Francesco Branca, these approaches are, for now, more promising approaches to combating vitamin A deficiency than Golden Rice.

Unpolished but promising

One of the key areas that this money could have been better used is in rice storage. Many varieties of rice have husks that have good levels of vitamin A and other nutrients in them. This ‘unpolished’ rice does not keep well in tropical climates, but with better storage facilities this rice could be distributed to families which would solve many dietary problems. The ‘polished’ rice is favoured by export markets and millers, hence its popularity, but that does little to help the poor.

Farmer control

The biggest concern many people have is the suspicion that this rice project will take control of seeds away from farmers, although these seeds are meant to be freely available to poor and subsistence farmers. Neth Daño, who works in the Philippines for the ETC Group (Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration), an advocate on behalf of small farmers, says the main purpose of genetically modifying crops has not been to help people; it's been driven by profit.

"A handful of corporations in developing countries have reaped billions in profits selling genetically modified seeds and proprietary herbicides," she says. Yet those companies have always claimed that this technology would benefit the poor. "The poor have always been at the centre of each and every assertion about the importance of genetically modified organisms to mankind."

Neth thinks this Golden Rice will be more expensive and less effective than traditional nutrition programs. She believes that the rice is being promoted because it will improve the image of biotechnology.

Foot in the door?

Neth is not alone. Many believe that this ‘humanitarian’ GM rice has usefulness as a public relations strategy to boost the tarnished image of the biotechnology industry. Michael Pollan, a food writer wrote an article in the New York Times about the subject, and observed that Golden Rice seemed less like a solution to vitamin A deficiency than “to the public-relations problem of an industry that has so far offered consumers precious few reasons to buy what it’s selling – and more than a few to avoid it.”

Still a risky technology

GM is controversial for a reason, whether it produces biofortified rice or a herbicide tolerant corn. The process of inserting artificial genes is a far from the precise process that it is purported to be. In the case of Golden Rice, DNA technology is used to manipulate the genome of the plants by inserting an additional metabolic pathway. This causes carotenoids, new components not previously found in rice grains, to be generated. It is not unlikely that this new metabolic pathway will also cause the original genes of the plants to act to differently. As experiments show, the effect of genetic manipulation is not just limited to specific gene segments, but can also influence the activity of thousands of other genes (Batista et al., 2008).

GM is risky

Which is one of the reasons GM is so controversial and risky is because we don’t fully understand how genes work, but the bits we do know now are that genes act in very complex ways, and this should be enough to ensure we should exercise caution when interfering, or better still that we use better technology like Marker Assisted Selection, and don’t interfere with the genes at all.

Bypassing regulation

Plants regulate their genes by a complex of natural regulation systems. By modifying plants to accept new genes, this regulatory system is bypassed, and so the plants are unable to ‘switch off’ these new metabolic pathways. We now know that genes do not work in isolation, but in complex ways. Bypassing this system has the potential to cause unplanned changes in the plant that could trigger allergies or produce proteins that are then not tested for safety. Genetic intervention can result in a whole series of biological effects relevant to risk assessment.

Possible effects include a general weakening of plants, indicted by increased susceptibility to disease and lower yields, decreased tolerance to stressors like drought or floods, high or low temperatures, and a tendency for increased production of pollen and seeds, (which has implications for cross contamination with non-GM crops), or the production of unwanted (anti-nutritive, immunogenic or toxic) components.

To finish

There has been a huge amount of hype around the Golden Rice project. After 14 years there is still no peer reviewed data of the safety and efficacy of the latest strain of GM rice, despite the imminent release of this rice in the Philippines at some point this year.

The levels of Beta Carotene in Golden rice are questionable and variable, and this project has drained vast sums of money away from cheaper, reliable and uncontroversial methods of combatting vitamin A deficiency. The only long term hope for the people in these regions is by allowing the growth and availability of vegetables that contribute more than one nutrient to people’s diets.

Storage and food waste is a massive global issue, as highlighted in the Engineers Report earlier this year, and funds would be better used helping farmers to store unpolished grains that are nutritionally more beneficial to families and local people than polished grains that are good for export, but nutritionally are very limited.

There is more value in these methods than will ever be obtained by growing GM rice.

There has never been more truth in the old adage; all that glisters is NOT gold.


Batista, R., Saibo, N., Lourenco, T., Oliveira, M., 2008, Microarray analyses reveal that plant mutagenesis may induce more transcriptomic changes than transgene insertion PNAS 105 (9), 3640-3645

Enserink M. Tough lessons from Golden Rice. Science. 2008; 230: 468–471.

Chassy, B.M., 2010, Food safety risks and consumer health, in New Biotechnology, Volume 27, Number 5, 534-544

Hooper Mea. Tufts University involvement in Golden Rice feeding trials. Letter from scientists and experts to Professor Robert Russell, Professor Emeritus, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University School of Medicine. 2009.

Paterson Speech

Topic starter Posted : March 25, 2015 11:21 am
Trusted Member


Posted : March 25, 2015 2:51 pm

The 'Golden Rice' - An Exercise in How Not to Do ScienceISIS-TWN Sustainable Science Audit #1

Evaluating science and technology for sustainability and social accountability

ISIS believes science as much as scientists should be socially and ecologically accountable, and has launched a sustainable science audit project jointly with the Third World Network

See also The Golden Rice Scandal Unfolds

The ‘golden rice’ - a GM rice engineered to produce pro-Vitamin A - is being offered to the Third World as cure for widespread vitamin A deficiency.

The audit uncovers fundamental deficiencies in all aspects, from the scientific/social rationale to the science and technology involved. It is being promoted in order to salvage a morally as well as financially bankrupt agricultural biotech industry.

The scientific/social rationalization for the project exposes a reductionist self-serving scientific paradigm that fails to see the world beyond its own narrow confines. The ‘golden rice’ is a useless application. Some 70 patents have already been filed on the GM genes and constructs used in making the ‘golden rice’. It is a drain on public resources and a major obstruction to the implementation of sustainable agriculture that can provide the real solutions to world hunger and malnutrition.

‘Golden rice’ is not a ‘second generation’ GM crop as has been claimed. It involves standard first generation technology, and carries some of the worst features in terms of hazards to health and biodiversity. Rockefeller Foundation, the major funder of the project by far has withdrawn support from it. The project should be abandoned altogether.

Key Words: ‘Golden rice’, vitamin A deficiency, Green Revolution, sustainable science, GM technology, gene patents, GM constructs

A gift-horse for the poor

A report in Financial Times states that the creators of ‘golden rice’ have struck ‘a ground-breaking deal’ with corporate giant AstraZeneca to give Third World farmers free access to the grain while allowing it to be commercially exploited in the developed world. The company will oversee the production of stable GM line(s) and patenting, and take the lines through field trials and commercial approval. While farmers in developed countries will have to pay royalties, those in the Third World earning less than US$10 000 will not. But will Third World farmers be allowed to save the seeds for replanting? It did not say.

This ‘golden rice’, not yet available, is already worth its weight in diamonds. The project was funded from four sources of public finance totaling US$100 million: the philanthropic Rockefeller Foundation, whose mission is to support scientific research that specifically benefit the poor, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the European Community Biotech Program and the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science.

The announcement failed to mention that there are already 70 patent claims on the genes, DNA sequences, and gene constructs used to make the golden rice. Will the cost of paying royalties for the previous 70 patent claims be added to the cost of the golden rice? Which of the royalties on the seventy-odd patents would the Third World farmers be absolved from paying? Rockefeller Foundation, the major funder by far, has reportedly abandoned the project to " shift its agricultural funding focus to support research that will have a more direct benefit to subsistence farmers"

The scientific/social rationale is fallacious

Many have commented on the absurdity of offering ‘golden rice’ as the cure for vitamin A deficiency when there are plenty of alternative, infinitely cheaper sources of vitamin A or pro-vitamin A, such as green vegetables and unpolished rice, which would be rich in other essential vitamins and minerals besides. To offer the poor and malnourished a high-tech ‘golden rice’ tied up in multiple patents, that has cost US$100 million to produce and may cost as much to develop, is worse than telling them to eat cake.

‘Golden rice’ was engineered to produce pro-vitamin A or b-carotene (the substance that makes carrots orange) in the endosperm, i.e., the part of the rice grain that remains after it has been polished. The scientific paper started with a review of the literature to rationalize why such GM rice is needed and of benefit for the Third World. The paper was accompanied by an unusually long news feature entitled, ‘The Green Revolution Strikes Gold’, which reinforced the rationalization for the project, explaining the remarkable feat of technology involved and stated that the scientists intend to make the ‘golden rice’ "freely available to the farmers who need it most." The last sentence in this glowing report, however, gave the game away: "One can only hope that this application of plant genetic engineering to ameliorate human misery without regard to short-term profit will restore this technology to political acceptability."

What were the reasons for the scientists to embark on the project? It is important to know, as these reasons may have been used to persuade funders to support the project in the first place, and funders ought to bear as much of the responsibility.

The first reason given is that the aleurone layer (in unpolished rice) is usually removed by milling as it turns rancid on storage, especially in tropical areas; and the remaining endosperm lacks pro-vitamin A. The researchers are tacitly admitting that at least some varieties of unpolished rice will have pro-vitamin A. The reason rice is milled is to prolong storage for export, and to suit the tastes of the developed world. So why not give the poor access to unpolished rice? A proportion of every rice harvest could be kept unpolished and either given freely to the poor, or sold at the cheapest prices. But the scientists have not considered that possibility. Unpolished rice is fact part of the traditional Asian diet until the Green Revolution when aggressive marketing of white polished rice created a stigma of unpolished rice. However, most rural communities still consume unpolished rice and now that consumers have become aware of its nutritional value, unpolished rice is becoming sought after.

"Predominant rice consumption", the researchers claim, promotes vitamin A deficiency, a serious health problem in at least 26 countries, including highly populated areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Some 124 million children worldwide are estimated to be vitamin A deficient. (Actually, the latest figures quoted in a press release from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is 250 million preschool children.) The scientists seem to be unaware that people do not eat plain rice out of choice. The poor do not get enough to eat and are undernourished as well as malnourished. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) started a project in 1985 to deal with vitamin A deficiency using a combination of food fortification, food supplements and general improvements in diets by encouraging people to grow and eat a variety of green leafy vegetables. One main discovery is that the absorption of pro-vitamin A depends on the overall nutritional status, which in turn depends on the diversity of the food consumed.

"Predominant rice consumption" is most likely to be accompanied by other dietary deficiencies. A recent study by the Global Environmental Change Programme concludes that predominant consumption of Green Revolution crops is responsible for iron deficiency in an estimated 1.5 billion, or a quarter of the world’s population. The worst affected areas are in rice-growing regions in Asia and South-East Asia where the Green Revolution had been most successful in increasing crop yield.

Research institutions such as IRRI have played the key role in introducing Green Revolution crops to the Third World. IRRI was founded in 1959 under an agreement forged by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations with the Philippine government, and its lease for operation expires in 2003. At its recent 40th anniversary celebration, hundreds of Filipino rice farmers protested against IRRI for introducing GM crops, blaming IRRI, among other things, for promoting the Green Revolution and causing massive loss of biological diversity in rice paddies throughout Asia.

It is clear that vitamin A deficiency is accompanied by deficiencies in iron, iodine and a host of micronutrients, all of which comes from the substitution of a traditionally varied diet with one based on monoculture crops of the Green Revolution. The real cure is to re-introduce agricultural biodiversity in the many forms of sustainable agriculture already being practiced successfully by tens of millions of farmers all over the world.

As the scientists know, clinical deficiency can be dealt with by prescription of vitamin A pills, which are affordable and immediately available. "Oral delivery of vitamin A is problematic", they state. Judging from the reference cited they may be referring to the well-known harmful effects of vitamin A overdose. But why would high levels of pro-vitamin A rice in a staple food that people generally consume in the largest amounts in a meal not also cause problems connected with overdose? In particular, vitamin A poisoning has been known to result from excessive b-carotene intake in food.

Finally, why is it necessary to genetic engineer rice? "Because no rice cultivars produce [pro-vitamin A] in the endosperm, recombinant technologies rather than conventional breeding are required." This is the conclusion to the whole fallacious reasoning process. It amounts to this: rice is polished, which removes pro-vitamin. A, therefore a hundred million dollars (much of it tax-payers’ money) are needed to put pro-vitamin A into polished rice. A more likely explanation is that the geneticists are looking for funding to do their research, and have constructed, as best they could, a series of rationalizations for why they should be supported. Neither the scientists nor the funders have looked further beyond the technology to people’s needs and aspirations, or to what the real solutions are.

The science and technology is standard first generation

It took ten years to engineer b-carotene into polished rice because rice naturally does not have the metabolic pathway to make it in the endosperm, perhaps for good biological reasons. Immature rice endosperm makes the early precursor, geranylgeranyl-diphosphate (GGPP). In order to turn GGPP into b-carotene, four metabolic reactions are needed, each catalyzed by a different enzyme. Enzyme 1, phytoene synthase converts GGPP to phytoene, which is colorless. Enzymes 2 and 3, phytoene desaturase and z-carotene desaturase, each catalyzes the introduction of two double-bonds into the phytoene molecule to make lycopene, which is red in colour. Finally, Enzyme 4, lycopene b-cyclase turns lycopene into b-carotene. Hereafter, the enzymes will be referred to by numbers only. Thus, a total of four enzymes have to be engineered into the rice in such a way that the enzymes are expressed in the endosperm. Some very complicated artificial gene constructs have to be made. The gene constructs are made in units called expression cassettes (see Box 1)

Box 1

The ‘gene expression cassette’ – a unit of transgenic construct

The gene for each enzyme never goes in alone. It has to be accompanied by a special piece of genetic material (DNA), the promoter, which signals the cell to turn the gene on, ie, to transcribe the DNA gene sequence into RNA. At the end of the gene, there has to be another signal, a terminator, to mark the RNA so it can be translated into protein. To target the protein to the endosperm, an extra bit of DNA, a transit sequence, is required. The resulting expression cassette for each gene is as follows:
See link:

promoter transit sequence gene terminator
Typically, each bit of the construct: promoter, transit sequence, gene and terminator is from a different source. Several expression cassettes are usually linked in series, or ‘stacked’ in the final construct.

In order to select for the plant cells that have taken up the foreign genes and gene-constructs, ‘golden rice’ makes use of a standard antibiotic resistance gene coding for hygromycin resistance, also equipped with its own promoter and terminator. All these expression cassettes have to be introduced into the rice plant cells. One simplification available is that the reactions catalyzed by two of the enzymes, 2 and 3, could be done by a single bacterial enzyme, let’s call it enzyme 2-3, so a total of four expression cassettes have to be introduced, one for each of three enzymes and the fourth for the antibiotic resistance marker.

Unlike natural genetic material which consists of stable combinations of genes that have co-existed for billions of years, artificial constructs consists of combinations that have never existed, not in billions of years of evolution. Artificial gene-constructs are well-known to be structurally unstable, which means they tend to break and join up incorrectly, and with other bits of genetic material, resulting in new unpredictable combinations. This process of breaking and joining of genetic material is referred to as recombination. The more complicated the construct, the more it tends to break and rearrange or form new combinations. The instability of the construct means that it is seldom inserted into the plant genome in its intended form. The inserts are generally rearranged, with parts deleted, or repeated.

In order to make many copies of the construct and to facilitate entry into plant cells, the construct is spliced into an artificial vector, which is generally made from genetic parasites that live inside cells. The artificial vector also enables the construct to be efficiently smuggled into the plant cell and to jump into the genome of the plant cell. The vector used in the case of the ‘golden rice’ is the one most widely used since the beginning of plant genetic engineering. It is derived from the ‘T-DNA’, part of the tumor-inducing (Ti) plasmid (a genetic parasite) of the soil bacterium, Agrobacterium. The Ti plasmid naturally invades plant cells, inserting the T-DNA into the plant cell genome, and causing the cell to develop into a plant tumor or gall. The artificial gene construct is spliced in between the left and right borders of the T-DNA vector. The borders of the T-DNA are ‘hotspots’ for recombination, ie, they have a pronounced tendency to break and join up, which is ultimately why the vector can invade the plant’s genome and carry its hitch-hiker gene construct along with it.

Three different constructs were made. The first consists of the expression cassettes of enzyme 1 from daffodils and enzyme 2-3 from the plant bacterial pathogen, Erwinia uredovora, together with the expression cassette of an antibiotic resistance marker gene that codes for hygromycin resistance. Another antibiotic resistance gene (coding for kanamycin resistance) is also present, albeit lacking a promoter. Hygromycin and kanamycin are both aminoglycoside antibiotics that inhibit protein synthesis. The resistance genes originate from bacteria and generally have specificities for more than one aminoglycoside antibiotic. This first construct is the most complicated, but it still does not have all the required enzymes. Enzyme 1 and the hygromycin resistance gene are both equipped with a promoter from the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV), which is especially hazardous (see below).

The second construct consists of the expression cassettes of enzyme 1 and enzyme 2-3 as in the first, but without any antibiotic resistance marker genes. The third construct consists of the expression cassette of enzyme 4, again from daffodil, stacked with the hygromycin-resistance marker-gene cassette. The strategy of separating the genes for the enzymes and antibiotic resistance marker into two different constructs is that it overcomes some of the problems of structural instability: the more cassettes stacked, the more unstable is the construct.

Each construct was spliced into a T-DNA vector, and two transformation experiments were carried out. In the first experiment, 800 immature rice embryos were inoculated with the vector containing the first construct, and hygromycin was used to select for resistant plants that have taken up the vector, resulting in 50 GM plants. In the second experiment, 500 immature embryos were inoculated with a mixture of the vectors containing the second and third construct respectively. Selection with hygromycin gave rise to 60 GM plants that have taken up the third construct, but only twelve of these had taken up the second construct as well. The transformation process is well-known to be random, as there is no way to target the foreign genes to precise locations in the genome. There could be more than one site of insertion in a single cell. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the actual inserts are likely to be rearranged, or subject to deletions or repetitions. Hence each transformed cell will have its own distinctive pattern of insert(s), and each GM plant, which comes from the single transformed cell, will differ from all the rest.

Note that the GM plants from the first experiment will not have the full complement of enzymes required to make b-carotene, and should give red endosperm from the lycopene present. Only the GM plants from the second experiment which have taken up both vectors would possess all the enzymes needed, and give orange-colored endosperm.

Uncontrollable technology and unpredictable outcomes raise questions on safety

Unexpectedly, transgenic plants from both transformation experiments gave orange polished grains. Chemical analyses confirmed that only b-carotene, in varying amounts, was found in all lines, but no lycopene. This suggests that enzyme 4 may be present in rice endosperm normally, or it could be induced by lycopene, to turn all of the lycopene into b-carotene. Lutein and zeaxanthin, two other products derived from lycopene, were also identified in varying amounts besides b-carotene. All of these were absent from non-GM rice.

In addition, many other uncharacterized, unidentified products were found, which differ from one line to another. What is the nutritional value of the other products? Are any of the known and unknown products harmful? Without thorough chemical analyses and toxicity tests, it is impossible to tell. This highlights the unpredictable, uncontrollable nature of the technology.

Molecular analyses of the GM inserts were not done in any detail. Nevertheless, judging from the evidence presented, there are the usual signs of deletions, rearrangements and multiple repeats of the constructs inserted due to structural instability of the constructs and the tendency for recombination. There is no guarantee that any of the plants will give stable progeny in successive generations. The instability of GM lines is well-known, and is a continuing problem for the industry. Inserted genes can lose their activities or become lost altogether in subsequent generations. There is nothing in ‘golden rice’ to distinguish it from standard first generation GM plants with all the well-known defects and hazards.

‘ Golden rice’ is no technical improvement and more unsafe

‘Golden rice’ exhibits all the undesirable, hazardous characteristics of existing GM plants, and in added measure on account of the increased complexity of the constructs and the sources of genetic material used. The hazards are highlighted below.

It is made with a combination of genes and genetic material from viruses and bacteria, associated with diseases in plants, and from other non-food species.

The gene constructs are new, and have never existed in billions of years of evolution

Unpredictable by-products have been generated due to random gene insertion and functional interaction with host genes, which will differ from one plant to another.

Over-expression of transgenes linked to viral promoters, such as that from CaMV, exacerbates unintended metabolic effects as well as instability (see below). There are at least two CaMV promoters in each transgenic plant of the ‘golden rice’, one of which is linked to the antibiotic resistance marker gene.

The transgenic DNA is structurally unstable, leading to instability of the GM plants in subsequent generations, multiplying unintended, random effects.

Structural instability of transgenic DNA increases the likelihood of horizontal gene transfer and recombination.

Instability of transgenic DNA is enhanced by the CaMV promoter, which has a recombination hotspot, thereby further increasing the potential for horizontal gene transfer.

The CaMV promoter is promicuous in function and works efficiently in all plants, in green algae, yeast and E. coli. The spread of genes linked to this promoter by ordinary cross-pollination or by horizontal gene transfer will have enormous impacts on health and biodiversity. In particular, the hygromycin resistance gene linked to it may be able to function in bacteria associated with infectious diseases.
Horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA from GM plants into soil fungi and bacteria has been demonstrated in laboratory experiments. Recent evidence suggests that it has also taken place in a field-trial site for GM sugar-beets, in which transgenic DNA persisted in the soil for at least two years afterwards.

Prof. Hans-Hinrich Kaatz from the University of Jena, has just presented new evidence of horizontal gene transfer within the gut of bee larvae. Pollen from GM rapeseed tolerant to the herbicide glufosinate were fed to immature bee larvae. When the microorganisms were isolated from the gut of the larvae and examined for the presence of the gene conferring glufosinate resistance, it was found in some of the bacteria as well yeast cells.
All cells including those of human beings are now known to take up genetic material. While natural (unmanipulated) genetic material is simply broken down to supply energy, invasive pieces of genetic material may jump into the genome to mutate genes. Some insertions of foreign genetic material may also be associated with cancer.
Horizontal transfer of genes and constructs from the ‘golden rice’ will spread transgenes, including antibiotic resistance genes to bacterial pathogens, and also has the potential to create new viruses and bacteria associated with diseases.


In conclusion, the ‘golden rice’ project was a useless application, a drain on public finance and a threat to health and biodiversity. It is being promoted in order to salvage a morally as well as financially bankrupt agricultural biotech industry, and is obstructing the essential shift to sustainable agriculture that can truly improve the health and nutrition especially of the poor in the Third World. This project should be terminated immediately before further damage is done.

The ‘golden rice’ possesses all the usual defects of first generation transgenic plants plus multiple copies of the CaMV promoter which we have strongly recommended withdrawing from use on the basis of scientific evidence indicating this promoter to be especially unsafe. A growing number of scientists (318 scientists from 39 countries to-date) are calling for a global moratorium on the environmental releases of GMOs until and unless they can be shown to be safe.
© 1999-2015 The Institute of Science in Society

Topic starter Posted : March 25, 2015 7:06 pm
Trusted Member

Posted : March 25, 2015 8:15 pm

How about posting a link instead of seeing who can be the cut and paste champion?

Posted : March 26, 2015 12:28 am

I way have way too much fun being the cut and paste queen.
Thank you for the accolades!;)

Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2015 1:11 am

It's a pain in the ass when using a smart phone to have to scroll through all the garbage.

Posted : March 26, 2015 8:20 am

Here's a link for you CI.

Nothing scientific but interesting read and video, none the less.

Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2015 10:11 am

See, that's what we like. A brief intro and a link.

Posted : March 26, 2015 10:22 am

Happy to accommodate you!
I, for one, found the video and article disturbing on many levels.

Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2015 11:07 am

Here's a pdf on pesticide impact on soil.

Sorry the link didn't come out. I'll try to repost later.

Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2015 1:16 pm
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