t all started in 1984 in Los Baños,Laguna, in the Philippines.Scientists had begun to develop anexciting new approach to breedingcrops—genetic engineering—andeveryone wondered how it could beused to help the world.In a house in this college townsat several breeders who weredreaming of what traits they couldcome up with using this exciting newtechnology. Increase yields? Developcrops to survive droughts? Protectrice against pests?One breeder, who developedmany of the Green Revolution cropsthat had saved hundreds of millionsfrom famine, gave a startling answer:yellow rice. Why? Because, he said,
vitamin A deciency aicts millions
of people around the world.
Finding answers to globalmalnutrition
How bad is vitamin A deciency? In
2005, for example, the devastating
eects of lacking this one vitaminaected 190 million preschool
children and 19 million pregnantwomen in 122 countries. Eachyear, it is responsible for up to 2million deaths and 500,000 cases ofirreversible blindness.Rice could substantiallyreduce the devastating impact of
vitamin A deciency because in
many developing countries—thePhilippines among them—the poorest
families lack the means to buy the
vegetables and fruits that contain
this crucial nutrient. They can aord
nothing more than plain white rice.There is only one problem. Riceis not usually a source of vitamin A.While many fruits and vegetables
have the genes to make this vitamin,
neither rice nor any of its close wildrelatives have these genes. Traditional breeding in rice is useless in the
ght against this deadly vitamindeciency. It would take genetic
engineering to help solve the problem
of making rice produce its own
source of vitamin A.
Golden Rice, from dream to reality
Today, we are there. The dream ofyellow rice—now dubbed GoldenRice—has gone from a rice breeder’sdream to actual rice plants that can
be grown in elds.
Golden rice promises to helpreduce the deaths and blindness
that come with not geing enough
vitamin A in poor communitiesaround the world. As we try toimprove the nutrition of poor familiesacross the country, Golden Rice canhelp alleviate the health scourge of
vitamin A deciency. Studies have
shown that one cup of Golden Ricecould provide around 50% of therecommended vitamin A that anadult needs for a day.We are there—that is, if we arenot misguided enough to turn our
backs on this important technology.
Recently, activists stormed a
research eld in Bicol on southern
Luzon island in the Philippines and
destroyed one of several eld trials ofGolden Rice, potentially seing back
the delivery of this humanitariancrop. It was a criminal act againsta project whose only goal is to helpelevate the health of the world’spoorest people.
Debunking Golden Rice myths:
a geneticist’s perspective
A leading authority on plant evolutionary and ecological genomics confronts the misconceptionsabout Golden Rice with cold, hard facts
i s a g a n i s e r r a n o ( 2 )
That person was Peter Jennings, the rst breeder at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). In an IRRI Pioneer Interview, Gary Toenniessen, a managingdirector of The Rockefeller Foundation and long-time IRRI collaborator, recalls this discussion among the breeders. Go to hp://youtu.be/a7bGykLVm2E.