NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Genetically Modified Rice Will Help Vitamin Deficient Children

February 20, 2013

Genetically modified (GM) rice will finally be grown in the Philippines and help reduce Vitamin A deficiency in children worldwide. After being delayed for 12 years, many children died while anti-GM advocates held up production of the rice, says Bjørn Lomborg, a professor at the Copenhagen Business School.

  • "Golden rice" is modified to have higher vitamin A content and could be a benefit to the 3 billion people who depend on rice as their staple food.
  • Of that 3 billion people, 10 percent are at risk for vitamin A deficiency, which, according to the World Health Organization, causes 250,000 to 500,000 children to go blind each year.
  • Of those youth cases, the World Health Organization estimates that half die in one year, and the British medical journal The Lancet estimates that vitamin A deficiency kills 668,000 children under the age of five each year.

The anti-GM campaigners cite inaccurate statistics or make illogical claims when arguing against golden rice.

  • Despite The New York Times Magazine reporting that one would need to eat 15 pounds of cooked golden rice a day to get enough vitamin A, recent studies indicates that just 50 grams of golden rice can provide 60 percent of recommended daily vitamin A intake.
  • GM-opponents claim that supplementation and fortification are all that is necessary to solve global youth vitamin A deficiency, but supplementation and fortification programs cost $4,300 and $2,700, respectively, for each life saved, compared to the $100 cost of golden rice.
  • Anti-GM campaigners state that GM products harm the environment, wild species and human health, yet there have been no documented health effects from GM foods.
  • Critics also state that GM seeds cost more and impact farmers' income, yet fail to account for the increased crop yields of GM crops.

Without any evidence of side effects, there is no reason why beneficial foods solutions like the vitamin A-enhanced golden rice shouldn't be produced.

Source: Bjørn Lomborg, "A Golden Rice Opportunity," Project Syndicate, February 15, 2013.


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