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Analytical Argument "Golden Rice" And Genetically Engineered Food

998 words - 4 pages

In 1999, a breakthrough in the field of agricultural genetic engineering was announced. This new development was "golden rice" that was genetically engineered to contain a substance that the body can convert into vitamin A called beta-carotene. Golden rice was instantly heralded as a miracle cure for the millions of people afflicted with vitamin A deficiency in less developed countries than our own.The main victims of vitamin A deficiency are the poor children and pregnant women of the Philippines, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Every year, vitamin A deficiency causes up to one million deaths and 500 000 cases of irreversible blindness in children in developing countries. It also causes the body's immune system to deteriorate, making those lacking in the nutrient especially susceptible to infections such as malaria and measles as well as minor illnesses. Pregnant women who have vitamin A deficiencies are more likely to die after or during childbirth.As rice is the staple food around the world, scientists hope that introducing building blocks of vitamin A into rice could combat the problem on a global scale. Golden rice was created by Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology created golden rice by splicing three foreign genes, one from a bacterium and two from the daffodil, into Japonica rice. This particular variety of rice is well adapted for the temperate regions where the rice is expected to have life-saving potential. To breed the vitamin A trait onto varieties of rice that are adapted to local climates in developing countries is estimated by the developers to take at least five more years, though this is optimistic considering the complexity of the genetic engineering required.As the world anticipates the arrival of the controversial golden rice, a debate is pinpointed on it as an example of a GM (genetically modified) food. Green groups and many organisations that provide aid for developing countries passionately oppose the development of golden rice and GM foods in general claiming that we have to focus on the underlying issues such as poverty and malnourishment that cause the deficiencies to occur in the first place. The IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) and the biotechnology industry are promoting the seemingly boundless benefits of the rice, claiming that it is a really powerful tool that has the potential to be instrumental in solving the problem of vitamin A deficiency.According to the Rockerfeller Foundation, which is funding the rice's development, claims from many companies in the biotech industry are largely exaggerated. Statements that the rice would save the sight of 500 000 children a year are overstated and the public have been misled about the entire project, as the crop would only generate a fraction of the vitamin A needed to solve any deficiency problems in the developing countries the rice was aimed at.At the moment the rice, dubbed "fool's gold" by some green groups,...

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