Genetic Engineering of Rice

"Golden rice" was genetically engineered to contain beta-carotene, not present in standard rice, to combat the widespread vitamin A deficiency and ensuing blindness in the children of the developing world. Beta-carotene is a vitamin A precursor that is converted to the vitamin by enzymes of the intestinal mucosa. Vitamin A, or retinol, is then absorbed and transported to the tissues, including the structures of the eye. Golden rice would thus seem to be an advance in the fight against vitamin A deficiency in rice-eating populations. However, there are some concerns about golden rice and other genetically engineered foods. Genetically engineered products have not necessarily been proven safe, and environmental or social risks may outweigh potential benefits that they may bring about.

Clinical trials of golden rice are needed before it is accepted universally. Only when it is clearly determined that it can prevent vitamin A deficiency in experimental animals, and that it presents no hazards, will this genetically engineered food be considered safe for use in human nutrition. Further, society itself must also decide if genetically created foods are acceptable, a point currently in dispute.

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