Golden rice has been at the center of many controversies. There are organizations like Greenpeace that want the cultivation of golden rice to be stopped across the world with immediate effect. There are local groups or unions in many countries that are also opposing the same. But golden rice is around and there are many who are endorsing the benefits that it offers.
Golden rice, like all genetically modified foods, has some advantages and some disadvantages. What one has to see is whether the pros are more in number and more significant than the cons. If there are dire consequences or severe cons, then the pros would certainly not be enough to consider ditching the good old natural rice for golden rice.
The Pros of Golden Rice
1. Golden rice is being pegged as a solution to malnutrition. Many countries around the world have rice in their staple diet. Being the primary food, it has to offer enough nutrients that can combat malnutrition or can prevent the onset of malnutrition in the first place. Rice does add to the calorie intake, quite generously, but it doesn’t offer innumerable nutrients. Vitamin A, for instance, is not a nutrient that normal rice offers. It has been seen in many studies that golden rice can prevent the deficiency of vitamin A.
2. Along with vitamin A, golden rice is also being developed further to offer certain minerals and protein. In future, golden rice might offer zinc, iron, vitamin C and good quality protein. None of these nutrients are usually in the offing in any type of rice. Other than combating malnutrition, golden rice can help to ensure that a child grows strong and is fed nutrient rich meals. This will help in better physical and cognitive development of a child.
3. Genetically modified foods have often been praised for having an impact on the health of people and mortality. There are studies that indicate modified foods such as golden rice can help improve the health of the elderly, can prevent untimely deaths or deaths due to poor health and several common medical conditions. Genetically modified foods can also prevent blindness. In a way, golden rice can help the elderly live longer and people in general would be healthier, thus free of ailments. This can have a very positive bearing on the economy of any country that spends a considerable part of its annual budget on healthcare.
4. Golden rice reduces the use of pesticides. Also, crop yields are higher. Both are generic advantages of most genetically modified foods. Although there have been oddities with some with an isolated incident of environmental concern, golden rice has never been at the crux of any such untoward event. For over a decade now, environmentalists and scientists have conducted research to investigate the environmental impact of cultivating golden rice or if there is any risk. None have been found till date.
5. There are many who believe that golden rice is not something that nature intended and thus it may have adverse effects of horrible nature on those who consume it. Well, scientific research and clinical data have nothing to show that golden rice can have any effect on the DNA or anything of those who consume it.
The Cons of Golden Rice
1. While golden rice does have some nutrients to offer, there are evidences that the nutrients are not sufficient enough to make a difference. There are nutritionists who have expressed concern over the reliance on one food for the intake of multiple nutrients. In any case, a food is not supposed to offer all kinds of nutrients. The claim that golden rice can alleviate or prevent vitamin A deficiency is yet to be proved on a large scale. Opponents of golden rice argue that instead of pushing forth one food apparently packing more nutrients, it is better if a diet including different kinds of healthy and nutritious foods is encouraged.
2. Golden rice can be allergic for some people. That is the case with all genetically modified foods. The addition of nutrients, whether it is vitamin, mineral or protein, does alter the nature of the food and where the vitamins, minerals and proteins are obtained from will have a bearing. People may be allergic to some kinds of plants and animals, which could be the source of the protein, minerals and vitamins. Thus, golden rice does have the risk of causing allergic reactions.
3. Golden rice can interfere with medications and can also reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics. Almost all genetically modified foods have antibiotic features to be insect resistant and to combat viruses and other germs. These antibiotic features can interfere with the human body’s response to antibiotics.
4. There is always a risk of the genes of golden rice spreading out and affecting natural vegetation or the growth of weeds. The result could be super weeds that would be almost impossible to get rid of with normal herbicides.