What is Golden Rice?

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Golden Rice is a genetically engineered variety of rice that has been modified to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of the rice1. This biofortified food was created to address global health issues, particularly vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which is prevalent in countries where populations are dependent on rice or other micronutrient-poor carbohydrate foods210. VAD can lead to numerous negative health effects such as dryness of the eye that can lead to blindness if untreated, reduced immune system response, and an increase in the severity and mortality risk of infections10. The technology behind Golden Rice was donated by its inventors, Professors Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer, in 2000 to assist the resource-poor of the world2. The rice is genetically modified to produce beta-carotene, which is not normally present in rice. When metabolized by the human body, beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A10. The Golden Rice project is a not-for-profit initiative, and no individual or organization involved with its development has any financial interest in the outcome2. The development of Golden Rice is a rigorous, complex, and meticulous process. The inventors of Golden Rice partnered with Syngenta and other scientists to produce an improved version of the rice, which has a level of beta-carotene content twenty times higher than the first version. This new version was donated to developing countries through the Golden Rice Network in 20044. Despite its potential benefits, the adoption of Golden Rice has faced resistance due to concerns about genetically modified organisms. However, studies have shown that the proteins in Golden Rice are both non-toxic and non-allergenic6. As of now, Golden Rice is registered as safe in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the USA2. Policymakers are encouraged to find ways to overcome resistance and accelerate the introduction and adoption of Golden Rice3.
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