Golden Rice is Not a Solution to Vitamin A Deficiency



Dear Friends and Colleagues

Golden Rice is Not a Solution to Vitamin A Deficiency

Golden Rice is rice that has been genetically engineered to produce beta-carotene, which the body can convert into Vitamin A. This beta-carotene gives the rice grains the yellowish colour that inspired its name. Golden Rice is being developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) with the claim that it can address Vitamin A deficiency, or VAD.

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) has released a factsheet on Golden Rice, citing scientific reasons why Golden Rice is not the answer to VAD. (See:

  • Golden Rice has low and variable levels of beta-carotene. An adult woman would need to eat from 2 – 20 kilograms a day, depending on how long the rice has been stored, in order to get her required daily amount of Vitamin A.
  • Golden Rice has not been adequately tested for bioavailability. Vitamin A can only be absorbed by the body when it is consumed along with fat. Children and adults suffering from VAD, which is most commonly caused by malnutrition, often do not have access to fat in their diets.
  • The beta-carotene in Golden Rice degrades rapidly during storage and cooking. After six months of being stored in the presence of air at 25°C, beta-carotene in Golden Rice degraded by 80-84%. Cooking Golden Rice degraded the beta-carotene by 17-24%.
  • Golden Rice is not yet ready for farmers to grow. Golden Rice researchers are still working to develop varieties that have yield, pest resistance and other qualities that make them suitable for farmers in Asia.
  • Golden Rice has not been adequately tested for safety. It lacks a full set of data to establish high safety standards and evidence of the actual benefits.
  • Golden Rice poses environmental risks. Studies have shown that gene flow can occur from GM rice to wild and weedy rice. GM rice could also contaminate the rice supply after harvest, by mixing with non-GM rice.
  • Golden Rice is expensive and unnecessary. Vitamin A deficiency is a symptom of hunger and malnutrition, which are caused by poverty and inequality. Access to a healthy and diverse diet is the solution to VAD using proven measures like supplementation, breastfeeding, food fortification and diet diversification. An effective, long-term solution would be to commit resources to support diverse crop production, home gardening, nutrition education, and to strengthen sustainable agricultural systems and infrastructure.

Common vegetables, such as sweet potato, carrots, spinach and other locally available foods provide more beta-carotene than Golden Rice. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes have up to 60 times as much beta-carotene.  Carrots have 23 times and spinach 17 times as much beta-carotene as Golden Rice. The millions of dollars that have been poured into developing and marketing Golden Rice over the past 20 years could have been much more effectively and immediately used to expand less costly, proven, and long-lasting solutions with multiple benefits.

Golden Rice has been approved as safe for human consumption in four countries that will not be producing or consuming it: Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand. It is pending approval in Bangladesh. Just recently, in December 2019, the Philippines approved Golden Rice for use in food, feed or processing.

With best wishes,

Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
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