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Golden Rice: Genetically Modified to Reduce Vitamin A Deficiency, Benefit or Hazard?

Abstract

The quantity of genetically modified (GM) foods has been consistently increasing while public concern grows. GM foods have been designed to be resistant to herbicides and high salinity, increase yields, increase esthetic appeal, use as vaccines, and increase nutritional value (1). Golden Rice is a GM crop intended to increase dietary vitamin A. A serious health problem in developing countries, vitamin A deficiency can lead to blindness and premature death. Rice, a food staple produces geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP), an early precursor of beta-carotene. The whole beta-carotene biosynthesis pathway (2 daffodil genes and 1 bacterium gene) was engineered with into rice endosperm to convert the GGPP to beta-carotene. The product, Golden Rice, yields 1.6 – 2.0 μg beta-carotene/g of dry rice (2). Beta-carotene is not toxic and can be stored by body. The body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which is toxic at high levels. Golden Rice has potential to be a valuable asset against global Vitamin A deficiency. No evidence has found GM foods to be hazardous in terms of gene transfer, toxicity, or pathogencity. However, GM foods have found to be allergenic. With appropriate regulation, GM foods have potential to have a positive impact on health.

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