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Golden Rice and its impact on human life




  • Ali Hamza1, Afaq Tariq1, Muhammad Ahmad1, Muhammad Bilal Anjum1,Shahzaib Irfan1

    1University of agriculture Faisalabad.

     

    Introduction of golden rice:

    Golden rice is a type of rice with biosynthesis of beta-carotene (a type of vitamin A). In other words, golden rice is produced through genetic engineering. Beta-carotene gives golden rice its “golden” or “yellow” coloring. White rice, on the other hand, does not contain carotenoids (i.e. beta carotene) and therefore lacks that “golden” coloring. When you consume golden rice, the beta-carotene either accumulates in your fatty tissues or is transformed into vitamin A.

                                                                                                                                           

    History of golden rice:

    Golden rice was invented in 1999 by Peter Beyer, professor at the University of Freiburg, Germany in the Centre for Applied Biosciences and Ingo Potrykus, professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at the Institute for Plant Sciences. Golden rice was originally produced in 1982 as an initiative for the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1992, a group of research experts and scientists met to perform studies on golden rice pros and cons. Beyer and Potrykus developed a rather complex biosynthetic crop that could be altered to produce healthier and more abundant grains like rice.

    ingo-potrykus-saad-ur-rehman-malik
    Peter Beyer and Ingo Potrykus

     

    Golden rice and vitamin A:

    It is important to understand that golden rice is considered a type of genetically modified rice (GMO). It is a fortified food that is produced to combat a vitamin A deficiency in areas where this vitamin is scarce. More and more people are being diagnosed with a vitamin A deficiency. In fact, young children are the most vulnerable to vitamin-related deficiencies. A vitamin A deficiency can severely affect a child’s eyesight; weaken his/her immune system function and increase his/her risk of chronic conditions. According to WHO, Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a health problem in countries like Africa and Southeast Asia. There are some statistics.

    • Approximately 400 million people in the world are at the risk of VAD.
    • UNICEF estimated that 124 million children in the world are affected by VAD.
    • Around 250,000 to 500,000 malnourished children go blind each year due to VAD.
    • 30% of 1 to 2.5 million total deaths of preschool children could be prevented by controlling VAD worldwide.
    Vitamin_A_deficiency-and-golden-rice-by-saad-ur-rehman-malik
    Prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency. Courtesy of WHO.

    Deaths due to VAD could be prevented if people acquire the minimum requirement of vitamin A in their daily diet. This could be done by consuming golden rice, which is our main topic. Golden rice is genetically modified rice to contain high beta-carotene, a precursor of pro-vitamin A, a way to increase vitamin A uptake in human diet. But why rice? Rice is the basic staple crop that makes up to 80% of daily diet in affected countries especially Southeast Asia. While the traditional white rice is a good course of calories, it does not contain micronutrients like vitamin A. Daily consume of 100g of golden rice in VAD patients could bring significant impact on alleviation of VAD morbidity and mortality.

     

    Beneficial impacts of golden rice:

    As golden rice is a rich source of Vitamin A, it has many beneficial impacts on human health.

    1-Lowers Risk of Blindness, Infections, Cancers and Diseases:

    Golden rice has the ability to lower your risk of blindness, infections, cancers and diseases. A vitamin A deficiency can increase your risk of vision impairments, age-related macular degeneration and blindness. It can also worsen infections (measles, HIV, AIDS, chicken pox, etc.), especially in children. Approximately 125 million children, worldwide, exhibit chronically low levels of vitamin A. The carotenoids found in golden rice can combat adult degenerative diseases. Other benefits of golden rice include: a lower risk of both a variety of heart diseases and prostate, breast and skin cancers.

    2-Reduces Gastrointestinal Distress:

    Another one of the benefits of golden rice is that it can reduce gastrointestinal distress. In fact, it is considered a beneficial food to eat following an episode of diarrhea, regardless of the cause. Golden rice behaves like a mild astringent in your gastrointestinal system, which supports easy digestion and restores your intestinal mucus following an episode of gastroenteritis and colitis.

    3-Reduces High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol

    Golden rice is a low-fat and low-sodium food; therefore it is especially beneficial for lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol. High levels of sodium, a mineral, can lead to fluid accumulation, edema (fluid retention) and a spike in blood volume. The excess fluid can increase your risk of high blood pressure. In other words, the more sodium you consume, the higher your blood pressure may soar. Moreover, one of the most valuable benefits of golden rice is that it prevents fiber-related biliary acids from accumulating in your intestines. Biliary acids found in the liver and transported to your intestines, aid cholesterol production. Golden rice contains no fat (i.e. no cholesterol); therefore it has the ability to regulate your unhealthy blood cholesterol levels.

    Adverse Impacts of golden rice:

    Despite all the benefits of genetically modified rice, there are in fact some potential problems that we should be aware of. Most concerns about GM foods fall into three categories: human health risks, economic concerns, and environmental hazards.

     

    1-Human health risk:

    Greenpeace International, an environmental organization that against genetic modified rice, said that genetically modified rice contains Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) strain which is not approved for human consumption. These genes are from the Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) bacteria that are often introduced to crops to help them fight off insects by producing toxins to the crops. In addition, since rice is eaten in large quantity in third-world countries, genetically modified rice with higher levels of Vitamin A could eventually lead to excessive intake of this vitamin causing hypervitaminosis or Vitamin A toxicity, which can lead to vomiting, dizziness and also incomplete formation of the cranial bone of a fetus. Also, it could perhaps harmfully impact the biodiversity, and cause diseases due to the alteration of the rice genome.

     

    2-Economic concerns:

    Usually large companies in the western countries have the means to develop genetic modified rice, giving rise to some critics fear that poor people will be too dependent on rich western countries. The farmer has to buy new seeds from the developer every year, increasing the profits of the GM Rice developer. Some opponents of genetic modified rice also fear that large companies may come to own the right for all the good rice varieties. This will eventually harm the other small companies that produce normal rice. In addition, they also feel that once golden rice is introduced into developing countries, Zeneca, the former biotechnology company with the commercial rights to golden rice, will sell the rice for a profit in developed countries.

    3-Environmental hazards

    The BT toxin produced by the BT Rice strain was leaked into the soil by the roots of the plant, which affected the enzymes of the soil microbes, increasing soil acid phosphate and decrease soil urease. In addition, a test from a Mediterranean GM Rice that is herbicide resistant found that the pollen from this plant cross bred with normal rice and a weedy relative of rice, red rice. This could potentially cause a very large problem in the ecosystems of the environments in which rice is grown. It was clear that transgenic rice was able to contaminate any nearby normal rice and other rice varieties. Eventually, it will lead to a huge disruption in the food chain and ecosystem of that area.

     

    Conclusion:

    Certainly there is no way to deny what biotechnology had brought us to improving our lives. Without this technology, golden rice is no way to be created to reduce the VAD problems. Golden rice is not the only solution to VAD as there are other methods to obtain vitamin A. But rice is commonly consumed in the affected countries and it is used as a tool to acquiring vitamin A besides as a source of food. In addition, it is a practical way to reach out to the VAD people.

    Therefore, we conclude that the positive impacts of golden rice outweigh the negative ones. However, there still many things need to be done to control the negative consequences from manifesting. We should address the controversy issues by actions to prove all allegations are baseless. So far till now, there aren’t any cases of side effect like allergenicity. We should give seminars and talks to educating people to dispel myths and increase knowledge. Extensive and elaborating research should be done as to improving GM products by minimizing the side effect and maximizing the potential of golden rice.

    About Saad Ur Rehman Malik

    My name's Saad ur Rehman. I graduated Bachelor of Science in Agriculture major in Agronomy. I am editor at Agrihunt and CEO at Hum Pakistan web portal, President at Al Rehman Rural Development Organization, Secretary Information at Society for Human Rights and working as Coordinator of E-Bahawalpur. My agriculture coursework and journalism background helps me that how to communicate about issues that affect farmer's everyday lives.

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