Beta-carotene contains Vitamin A. This is known

Beta-carotene enriched GoldenRice is a very argued topic, with people taking drastic sides. This GM rice shouldreduce Vitamin A deficiency in poor countries, reducing cases of blindness,unhealthy skin and weak immune systems, and leading to premature death to thebillions of people that have a rice-filled diet.

Vitamin A deficiency alone affects 250 millionchildren in the world. GM rice makes certain that food will be nutritious inthe future, even when demand will exponentially increase. However, only one country hasstarted distribution and production of this rice, in the Philippines. Thus, why is this ‘miracle’rice not being eaten at billions of peoples’ homes? The Discovery First, we shall look at how the firststrain of rice was created. This was done by adding 2 beta-carotene biosynthesisgenes: the first gene is named “phytoene synthase” (from daffodils) and thesecond is called “carotene desaturase” (from the bacterium “Erwinia uredovora”).

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They combine to give lycopene, a red compound found in tomatoes. However, in1999 the strain of GM rice was modified so that did not require lycopene, soproduced B-carotene from inside the rice grain only. The fusion of “PSY” and “CRTI”together gives the rice a bright yellow look, a clear indicator that itcontains Vitamin A. This is known as genetic engineering (ensuring products aremore useful). This was first thought out in 1984, and successfully created in1999.The carotene contains manymolecules and enzymes. This, and with at least one B-ionone ring, ensures thatit has vitamin A production.

This means the rice has mechanisms for “carotenesequestration”, e.g. crystallization, oil deposition and protein-lipidsequestration. Putting this gene into rice, which is normally low in carotene,took up to the 1990s to perfect. The synthesis of lycopene via “PSY” and “CRTI”in the rice provides the substrate for these enzymes, which develops the “PSY”and “CRTI” enzymes, which causes the production of vitamin A.However, this 1ststrain of golden rice did not provide enough vitamin A to negate vitamin Adeficiency. Therefore, a second strain of golden rice was created in order to secretehigher B-carotene levels to combat this. This is because, inmulti-step biosynthetic pathways to create GM rice, there is a procedure thatlimits the rate that a substance produced at, which will decrease the amount ofB-carotene, produced in total.

This can be prevented by either increasing theconcentration of rate-limiting enzyme or by using an enzyme that lets itssubstrate bind to its active sites quicker and form enzyme-substrate complexesat a faster rate, therefore making it catalyze faster. In various experimentsit was found that PSY was limited. This experimentation with PSY genes from differentsources concluded that the maize and rice genes are the most efficient atproducing vitamin A in rice. This led to the secondgeneration of Golden Rice, which produced over 30 times more B-carotene thanthe first strain. This means a diet containing GR2 has a higher incidence to reducevitamin A deficiency related diseases. This also gives GR2 a much strongeryellow color than GR1. Since the discovery of GR2,there are now 5 rice field trial sites in the Philippines, which aim to startthe distribution of golden rice in the country by 2017, and Bangladesh will benext achieving distribution in 2018.

  TheDistribution This does sound like a breakthrough intechnology. However, only the majority of people are happy with this. Disapprovalaround GM rice, particularly by people in the Greenpeace group, is threateningits use in the Philippines and other countries involved with GM rice. Reports cited followers of Greenpeace destroying a production field inthe Philippines.

This is because Greenpeace has been a major scaremonger creatingdoubt in genetically modified breakthroughs, especially against the use ofbiotechnology.In addition, even though this project has beenbacked by more than 100 of the world’s mostdistinguished scientists, there are problems that still alarm people. Thisleads to the idea that there are two elements: uncertainty and fear. There isalso the concern about whether the growing of GM-rice could spread to theconventional crop of rice that had been grown for centuries and is eaten byboth the local population and the worldwide community. The biggest scare wasthat several years ago in China, scientific researcherssampling populations with Golden Rice committingan ethical breach of the law by feeding GM-rice to children without lettingtheir parents/guardian know first. When this outbreak became public, Chinaclosed the research completely, critically undermining the crops’ reputation. In countries such as Braziland Paraguay, the increasing use of soybean monocultures had led to vastdeforestation in the past, which sparked numerous protests.

People use similararguments that mass-producing GM rice could lead to mass deforestation in thefuture, where sustaining enough produce to feed the population whilst beingenvironmentally friendly will rise to the next level of difficulty. On the other side, amongstthe opposition, there are numerous supporters of “The Golden Rice Project”, whoconstantly praise the rice crop. Supporters of the project also reject any concern overthe fact that this project has partners in the biotech industry that strive to makeprofit. It has the freedom to run under humanitarian use, therefore thetechnology needed to grow the crop can be provided and delivered free of chargein developing countries. This means costs will never be a concern for the localfarmers, meaning they can all grow the crop. The Golden Rice project also received the favor fromthe Pope by his blessing and also was awarded the “2015 Patents for Humanityaward”. In June 2016, over 100 Nobel Laureates (winners of Nobel Prizes), alongside5591 scientists and ordinary people, signaled their concern with Greenpeace’sopposition by signing a letter against them and their action to geneticallymodified organisms. Sir Richard Roberts, the leader of the movement, statedthat: “We call upon Greenpeace to cease and desist in its campaign againstGolden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology ingeneral.

” However, criticism retaliated by arguing that evenafter 24 years of research and the billions of dollars spent, the project isstill years away from full completion and the release to various countries.They point that many research related queries remain about GM rice. Even further, “Masipag”,the network established for Philippine farmers and scientists, state that more caution is needed.”Chito Medina”, theleader of Masipag, asks: “Is Golden Rice food, medicine or both? If it is both,then the health department should be doing safety studies. So far only feedingstudies have been going on, showing that the Vitamin A is absorbed by the body,but there are no safety data showing whether chemicals may have been producedin the process of genetic engineering.” This, according to Masipag, includingthe fact that a test field had been destroyed, made clear that golden rice isisn’t welcome there, any may never be. Medina claimed that their network itselfhad no part in the destruction, but some of its own members were there at theirown will.

 Therefore, after these countless debates, the progress inThe Golden Rice project remains at a snail’s pace, whilst millions of peopledie due to Vitamin A deficiency. After such a massive leap in discovery, but asmall step in distribution, it is almost a waste of an opportunity to solve a vastproblem in the world, with GM rice distribution only just commencing in thePhilippines and beginning in Bangladesh in 2018.


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