Golden rice is a genetically modified rice plant intended to yield beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) in its grain. It is deemed by the International Rice Research Institute as a solution to Vitamin A deficiency (VAD), and has been approved in December for direct use as food, feed or for processing (FFP) by the Philippine Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry.
However, the US Food & Drug Administration says otherwise. “The concentration of beta-carotene in GR2E rice is too low to warrant a nutrient content claim. The beta-carotene in GR2E rice results in grain that is yellow-golden in color,” the FDA writes in a letter. In addition, research published on Environmental Sciences Europe, a peer-reviewed scientific journal covering all aspects of environmental science, also claims that there is no consensus yet on GMO safety.
Is there enough vitamin A in golden rice?
According to a fact sheet by Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, “an adult woman would need to eat several kilograms of golden rice a day—likely anywhere from two kilograms to over 20 kilograms, depending on how long the rice has been stored—to get her required daily amount of vitamin A.” In addition, “leafy vegetables are enough to meet the required daily amount of vitamin A for adults and children,” the Canadian network writes.
Malunggay (Moringa) and yellow sweet potato are some of the safer, accessible and affordable sources of vitamin A. “A glassful of fresh Moringa leaves contains the daily requirement of vitamin A for up to 10 people, (while) small amounts of less than 10 mg of fresh (moringa leaves) can meet the day’s requirement of vitamin A of preschool children,” says GRAIN, a non-profit organization based in Spain.
Golden rice is being promoted in the country as the solution to Vitamin A deficiency, which affects millions of Filipino women and children. However, VAD is not an isolated problem in malnutrition. This issue stems from food insecurity and malnutrition which are caused by poverty and widening wealth inequality. Solutions to address these problems are complex and should start with addressing socio-economic policies.