The golden rice saga began in 1999 when researchers developed a genetically modified version of rice that produces beta-carotene (hence the yellow or “golden” color), which is a precursor to vitamin A. Finally, last month the Philippines approved golden rice, which is now cleared to be planted by farmers. The reason for the two-decade delay was mostly regulatory, and caused by ideological opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), not based in science or evidence. The story reflects some important basic principles in public health.
Golden rice was developed to fight vitamin A deficiency, which remains a serious problem in many parts of the world. The prevalence of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is about 140 million worldwide, with 250,000 – 500,000 children going blind every year from VAD, half of whom will die within a year.
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