Golden Rice: To Combat Vitamin A Deficiency for Public Health

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Abstract or Summary

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) has been recognised as a significant public health problem continuously for more than 30 years, despite current interventions. The problem is particularly severe in populations where rice is the staple food and diversity of diet is limited, as white rice contains no micronutrients. Golden Rice is a public-sector product designed as an additional intervention for VAD. There will be no charge for the nutritional trait, which has been donated by its inventors for use in public-sector rice varieties to assist the resource poor, and no limitations on what small farmers can do with the crop—saving and replanting seed, selling seed and selling grain are all possible. Because Golden Rice had to be created by introducing two new genes—one from maize and the other from a very commonly ingested soil bacterium—it has taken a long time to get from the laboratory to the field. Now it has been formally registered as safe as food, feed, or in processed form by four industrialised counties, and applications are pending in developing countries. The data are summarised here, and criticisms addressed, for a public health professional audience: is it needed, will it work, is it safe and is it economic? Adoption of Golden Rice, the next step after in-country registration, requires strategic and tactical cooperation across professions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government departments often not used to working together. Public health professionals need to play a prominent role.

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