Genetically modified food, golden rice, has been controversial for 20 years

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 Genetically modified food, golden rice, has been controversial for 20 years


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Golden rice, a genetically modified food that has been debated for nearly 20 years, may finally come out. Bangladesh is expected to become the first country in the world to grow genetically modified golden rice, Science reported. Currently, the countrys biosafety core committee is assessing environmental risks, and if the follow-up review goes well, golden rice will be allowed to start growing in 2021.

Where does gold come from

How is golden rice cultivated?

Golden rice is a kind of genetically modified rice, because its endosperm is rich in u03b2 - carotene and presents a different golden color from ordinary rice, so it is called golden rice. Chen Hao, associate professor of life science and Technology College of Huazhong Agricultural University, told Science and technology daily.

Golden rice was first invented by INGO portricus, a Swiss scientist, and Peter Bayer, a German scientist.

The earliest report on the cultivation of golden rice was published in Science in 2000. Two exogenous genes needed for u03b2 - carotene synthesis were transferred into ordinary rice, namely, the genes of phytolycopene synthetase from Narcissus and carotene dehydrogenase from bacteria. As a result, u03b2 - carotene could be synthesized from rice endosperm which could not have synthesized u03b2 - carotene. This kind of golden rice is also known as the first generation of golden rice.

In 2005, golden rice was improved to replace the Hydra lycopene synthetase from Narcissus with the Hydra lycopene synthetase from corn, while the carotene dehydrogenase from bacteria remained unchanged, Chen Hao said. The content of u03b2 - carotene in the improved golden rice increased significantly, reaching more than 20 times, which is called the second generation of golden rice.

What has been debated for 20 years

As for the controversy over golden rice, Chen Hao introduced that when the first generation of golden rice appeared in 2000, its u03b2 - carotene content was not very high, and Greenpeace and other reverse organizations questioned that it could not provide enough vitamin A for human body. In 2005, the second generation of golden rice appeared, its u03b2 - carotene content increased significantly, and the controversy basically disappeared.

The second issue is whether transgenic technology is necessary. It is proposed to supplement vitamin A by distributing capsules containing vitamin A to the poor, or letting farmers grow fruits rich in u03b2 - carotene in their backyard.

People who support golden rice think that golden rice is the most economical and feasible. There are many problems in the alternative plan, such as the high cost and the need to change the planting habits of local farmers, said Chen Hao. This dispute has always existed, and different people have different opinions

Other disputes are about the safety of transgenes. That is to say, as long as transgenes are involved, there will be opponents of the reversal. Chen Hao said.

On May 24, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that genetically modified golden rice can be safely consumed. This means that golden rice can be sold in the United States. Lin Yongjun, a professor at the school of life science and technology, Huazhong Agricultural University, said. So far, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States have supported golden rice.

In fact, the food and Drug Administration of the United States does not specifically set up regulations for genetically modified foods, but follows the same assessment process and regulatory procedures as other foods.

Three reasons make Bangladesh the first to eat crabs

Why did Bangladeshs parliament first start to grow golden rice?

First of all, Bangladesh is a developing country with rice as its main food. It is a country with a high incidence of vitamin A deficiency and has an objective demand for golden rice, Chen said

Vitamin A deficiency is an epidemic disease among the poor, which is listed as one of the major public health problems by the World Health Organization. Because the diet of the poor is lack of diversification, and the staple foods such as rice and flour basically do not contain vitamin A, leading to the high incidence of vitamin A deficiency in the poor, the main hazards include dry eye, night blindness, blindness, low immunity, etc. The u03b2 - carotene in golden rice is a precursor of vitamin A, which can be accumulated into vitamin A in human body, and alleviate vitamin A deficiency.

So eating golden rice is the most economical and effective strategy to alleviate vitamin A deficiency. Lin Yongjun told SciTech daily, the direct beneficiaries of previous genetically modified crops such as herbicide resistant and insect resistant crops were farmers, while the direct beneficiaries of golden rice were poor people, so golden rice is also known as the most humane technology product.

Secondly, Bangladesh has commercialized the cultivation of genetically modified crops. For example, the government of Bangladesh has been more open to the cultivation of insect resistant transgenic eggplant since 2003. In addition, Bangladesh participated in the field experiment of golden rice and understood it better. Chen Hao said that the golden rice was improved by Syngenta in 2005 and then transferred to the International Rice Institute in the Philippines to take charge of the subsequent breeding work. With the support of the gates Melinda Gates Foundation, the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh and other countries have participated in the evaluation of golden rice. The yield of one of the golden rice varieties in Bangladesh is better.

The combination of many factors makes Bangladesh the first country to grow golden rice.

Extended reading

Commercial planting of genetically modified crops in China

In China, what are the reasons for deciding which genetically modified crops to plant? What is the process of growing GM crops? How to supervise the safety of genetically modified crops?

Chen Hao said that each country needs to consider different issues when deciding which genetically modified crops to plant. The decision-making power of commercial planting of genetically modified crops in China is the administrative approval power in the Ministry of agriculture and rural areas.

From the perspective of the crops approved for commercial cultivation in China at present, the first may consider the urgency of planting genetically modified crops. Chen Hao said, take the planting of transgenic insect resistant cotton as an example. It was the first commercial planting of insect resistant cotton in the United States in 1996, and it was introduced in Henan Province in 1997. The main reason is that the cotton bollworm was rampant in that year, and the pesticide control effect was too poor, so it is not good to promote insect resistant cotton.

Secondly, it may be social influence and stability. For example, the transgenic plants that are currently commercially grown in China are either not food, such as cotton, or the planting area is very small and has little influence, such as papaya. China is cautious about genetically modified staple crops such as rice, which have a great impact on the society. Chen Hao said the third possibility is the maturity of technology and the safety of domestic seeds, that is, when the transgenic technology of relevant seeds is not enough to compete with multinational companies, the approval speed can not be approved or controlled.

Chen Hao introduced that in China, the process of commercialized planting of genetically modified crops needs to go through the process of experimental research, intermediate test, environmental release, productive test and application for safety certificate, which is expected to be completed in 8-10 years if all goes well. After obtaining the safety certificate, the main crops need to be subject to variety approval, and the seed industry engaged in relevant business needs to have production license and business license, etc.

The safety of genetically modified crops in China is mainly supervised by the Ministry of agriculture and rural areas. Before the genetically modified crops are put on the market, the main safety problems of supervision are unauthorized field test and illegal planting. The supervision methods are field sampling and testing by agricultural administrative departments at all levels, and safety inspection of key units and transgenic test bases. After the approval of transgenic crops, the main risk is long-term ecological risk. For example, the main risk of insect resistant transgenic crops is ecological risk such as pest resistance evolution, which needs long-term monitoring by development units and relevant departments and regular reporting to the Ministry of agriculture and rural areas. Chen Hao said.

Source: Science and technology daily Author: Ma Aiping, editor in charge: Shi Jianlei, nbj11331