Group says Golden Rice has no nutritional benefits
October 16 – On World Food Day, farmers and consumers’ groups demand anew for the moratorium of the release of Golden Rice, believing that this genetically modified rice will not address the hunger and malnutrition that remains prevalent in the country.
The groups, including MASIPAG, a network of farmers, scientists and NGOs, issued a critique to the Dept. of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) on the consolidated risk assessment report prepared by the Golden Rice proponents. The Golden Rice proponents, led by the Philippine Rice Research Institute, are aiming to release the GM rice in the market despite the lack of credible safety testing of the product and the negligible nutritional value.
“We are calling on our government to immediately disapprove the application of Golden Rice as food and feed because it will not address the issue of Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) or any other malnutrition issues of Filipino children and women,” stated in the critique.
Philrice, the leading project proponent of Golden Rice in the Philippines has been marketing the GMO as “Healthier Rice,” to highlight its beta-carotene advantage. However, the amount of beta-carotene, the pre-cursor to Vitamin A, is too negligible for Golden Rice to have a nutritional impact.
MASIPAG pointed out the recent findings showing the very low beta carotene expressed by the Golden Rice grain. The minimal beta-carotene amount will be further degraded or diminished once the rice has been milled, cooked and stored over time. According to experts, the beta-carotene degradation will also result to toxic compounds that can cause oxidative stress damage that can lead to cancer.
Dr. David Schubert of Salk Institute for Biological Studies, USA and Dr. Michael Antoniou of King’s College London, UK further states that the Golden Rice “poses a serious health risk to those who consume it.”
In a letter of concern addressed to the secretaries of Sec Francisco Duque of the DOH and Secretary William Dar of the DA, both scientists stated that “there have never been short nor, more importantly, long-term safety testing in laboratory animals (of Golden Rice) and this must be done for several generations in rats to determine if it causes birth defects, which we consider a serious possibility.”
“The risks of Golden Rice far outweigh its supposed benefits,” said Dr. Chito Medina, member scientist of MASIPAG. “We will be better off improving and diversifying the food crops in the farms and diets of our children to ensure that proper nutrition is achieved.”
Hunger Amid Plenty
Vitamin A Defiency (VAD), the condition that the Golden Rice is supposed to combat, is caused primarily by hunger and poverty. Majority of Filipinos live below the poverty threshold, unable to eat healthy and sufficiently. Even the farmers, the food producers themselves are suffering from food insecurity especially with the current rice crisis made worse by the Rice Tariffication Law.
“The Golden Rice project concretely shows what is wrong in our food system; corporations insist that we need this product despite its obvious uselessness because they will profit from it,” said Cris Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG. “Meanwhile, we have plenty of traditional and local food varieties that are rich in beta-carotene, yet children and women still suffer from malnutrition because of the lack of buying power and access to these foods.”
“This World Hunger Day, we implore the government to pay attention to the needs of our food producers, including lands to till and appropriate technologies to be able to produce sufficient, safe and healthy food that will be affordable for everyone.”
The critique was signed by various organizations including MASIPAG, Ugnayan ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Greenpeace Philippines, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Me and My Veg Mouth, People’s Food Movement, Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP), RESIST Agrochemical TNCs!, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns and SEARICE. #
Beta-carotene degradation products – formation, toxicity and prevention of toxicity.
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Kinetics of β-carotene degradation under different storage conditions in transgenic Golden Rice® lines.
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