Golden Rice: a new definition of precision

October 2018

Two years ago, a group of Nobel laureates published a letter in support of "Precision Agriculture (GMOs)", or more specifically, Golden Rice to combat vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in Africa and Asia.

This begs the question, what's so precise about GMOs, or more specifically Golden Rice?

Golden Rice: a curious sort of safety evaluation

October 2018

Project 'GM Golden Rice' was embarked on over 20 years ago to "reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia".

Despite all these years of development, Golden Rice has still not been tested to see if it can alleviate VAD. Nowhere has it received the appropriate regulatory authorisation or institutional review board clearances, nor authorisation for unconfined environmental release. In short, GM vitamin A-enriched rice hasn't reached the starting line.

Curiously, however, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) now developing Golden Rice has asked the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Food Safety Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), and Health Canada for an opinion on the GM rice.

Since Golden Rice is clearly not intended for cultivation or consumption in any of these areas, why start by seek confirmation of its acceptability there?

Novel golden substances

October 2018

Forcing rice to produce GM carotene (vitamin A precursor), a substance with no role in the grains of the plant, has long posed safety questions.

The genes to generate carotene are put into 'Golden Rice' to create a bio-fortified staple food for areas in Africa and Asia where vitamin A deficiency ('VAD') is all too common.

Because of the unpredictable nature of GM plants, and because rice grains aren't adapted to manufacture or store carotene, and because vitamin A-related substances are highly biologically active (see Note), Golden Rice could contain novel harmful elements, especially to the young.

USA missing the main markets

October 2018

America has been gung-ho about declaring gene-edited plants somehow not really GM, paving the way for the new-GM crops now lining up for entry to the US food market [1,2].

The back-drop to this is interesting.

New GM wheat with fibre

October 2018

Wary of negative public reaction and export market collapse, America has never pursued the commercialisation of GM wheat.

However, the recent US Department of Agriculture (USDA) decision that gene-edited crops are somehow not genetically engineered [1], has opened the door to the development of new-GM wheat.

Bt allergic reactions?

October 2018

Food allergy is an important public health problem, affecting some 8% of children and 3% of adults.

Allergic individuals suffer from an immune system disturbance which causes an inflammatory reaction to substances which are normally tolerated. A first exposure to the substance primes the system and subsequent exposures cause a reaction. Sometimes several earlier exposures are needed before the body reacts, especially in the case of food.

Allergic responses are highly complex, involving several different cell types and organ systems. They vary according to the route of exposure, for example, skin, nasal or lungs, digestive tract, or body penetration. To add to the complexity, substances referred to as 'adjuvants' which aren't themselves allergens can induce an allergic reaction to other materials presented at the same time.

Acute, severe allergic reactions can be life-threatening. Chronic allergies can be severely debilitating and indirectly fatal.