GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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Stories

Preliminary studies raise hopes:

Golden Rice works well!


Rice is known to have too little iron and vitamin A. In regions of the world in which humans depend almost exclusively on rice for their nourishment, deficiency in vitamin A is widespread. Insufficient vitamin A leads to vision problems and, in severe cases, blindness. Even more importantly, it is estimated that approximately 1.15 million deaths each year are related directly or indirectly to the variety of health problems caused by this deficiency.

Ingo Potrykus, Prof. em., ETH Zurich and Peter Beyer at Campus Technologies in Freiburg (CTF), Germany, succeeded in 2000 in creating a rice cultivar that offers a metabolic precursor to vitamin A known as beta-carotene. Due to its yellow colour, his cultivar quickly was christened “Golden Rice”.

However, critics disputed the potential of Golden Rice to fight the widespread vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, arguing that one would have to eat several kilograms of rice per day to achieve any positive effect. Recent pre-studies tell a different story.

 

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Prof. em. Ingo Potrykus, ETH Zurich

Photo: ETH Zurich

 

 

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Golden Rice (right): With enhanced in Vitamin A content, Golden Rice should help alleviate vitamin deficiencies causing eye diseases and blindness.

 

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GMO Compass: Mr Potrykus, what are the main results of the pre-studies conducted at the Tufts University in Boston?

Ingo Potrykus: The tests have shown the efficacy of Golden Rice as a means to prevent vitamin A deficiency. A diet of just 200 to 300 grams of Golden Rice per day, which is the average consumption of rice in many South-East-Asian countries, is most probably enough to avoid the life-threatening consequences of a lack of beta-carotene in food.

GMO Compass: Did you expect such an outcome?

Ingo Potrykus: Frankly, I personally expected that. But the findings are much better than even my colleagues expected. Provitamin A from the rice endosperm is obviously far better converted into vitamin A than from any other foodstuff.

GMO Compass: Critics of agricultural biotechnology doubted the protective effect of Golden Rice for years. Why did it take so long to prove its efficiency?

Ingo Potrykus: We had to develop isotope-marked varieties of Golden Rice for precise conversion measurements. This was a very complex and expensive process. It took us years to gain sufficient amounts of material. In 2008 we will be able to conduct broader tests to double-check our findings.

GMO Compass: When do you expect Golden Rice to be grown on a widespread basis?

Ingo Potrykus: Countries such as India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, China and Vietnam are all seriously interested in biofortified rice to alleviate micronutrient deficiencies in their populations. Currently, we are preparing for the necessary documentation for the approval procedures and I expect the first authorizations within four to five years.

GMO Compass: Mr Portykus, thank you very much for the interview.

 

 


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

More information

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December 3, 2007 [nach oben springen]

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