GM golden rice has failed in field tests, giving lower yields than comparable local non-GM varieties and causing yet another "delay in the timeline" for release. Jonathan Matthews and Claire Robinson report
Yet again GMO promoters have been caught lying about GM golden rice.
A new report has just been published by authors at the University of California which is being hyped in the media as exposing the "injustice" of denying GM golden rice to the poor, causing "the death of millions of children".
The article says the University of California researchers blame "powerful forces that hide behind environmentalism" for an "international prohibition" on "producing golden rice". The implication is that golden rice has long been available for use and that it is only GM opponents who stand in the way of its use.
But this "prohibition" is entirely imaginary. GM golden rice has not been submitted to regulators anywhere in the world, as it isn't ready yet!
GMWatch has long pointed out that it isn't anti-GM activists in the West, but basic research and development problems that mean GM golden rice still isn't ready, even after swallowing millions in development funds and two decades' worth of work.
And now it seems there is going to be a further delay in releasing GM golden rice.
The most recent news from the IRRI, which is overseeing the golden rice project, shows that golden rice doesn't even pass muster in terms of the yields and agronomic performance necessary for farmers to adopt it. IRRI noted (see article below), "average yield [of GM golden rice] was unfortunately lower than that from comparable local varieties already preferred by farmers."
And that's just the first hurdle. The IRRI has also previously made clear that it still isn't known whether golden rice is safe or even works: "It has not yet been determined whether daily consumption of Golden Rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient and could therefore reduce related conditions such as night blindness."
It is more than reprehensible that a product that doesn't yet work in the field, hasn't been proven safe, and may not even help people with malnutrition, is being promoted as a miracle cure that could already be saving millions. All this false promotion does is distract attention from the proven alternatives that are already effectively combating vitamin A deficiency in a country like the Philippines - the main target of the golden rice promoters.
It's tempting to suggest that the University of California report may even be an attempt at damage control, to blind the world's media to the ongoing fiasco that is GM golden rice.
What is the status of the Golden Rice project coordinated by IRRI?
IRRI, 13 May 2014
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) reports that as of March 2014, the research, analysis, and testing of beta-carotene-enriched Golden Rice continues, in partnership with collaborating national research agencies in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.
IRRI, together with its many partners across the globe, continues with the thorough analysis of the data emerging from the series of Golden Rice multi-location field trials (MLTs) conducted in the Philippines. MLTs have also been scheduled in Bangladesh and Indonesia. Regulatory authorities in the Philippines are also continually consulted to determine the significance, if any, of data lost due to the vandalism by militants of the MLT site at Pili, Camarines Sur, in August 2013.
The first round of MLTs was conducted using one of the most advanced versions of Golden Rice: GR2 event “R” (GR2-R). This first round took place in 2012-13 to assess how well this version of Golden Rice would perform in different locations in the Philippines. Preliminary results were mixed. While the target level of beta-carotene in the grain was attained, average yield was unfortunately lower than that from comparable local varieties already preferred by farmers.
An important goal of the trials was to test whether the agronomic performance of the new rice variety would be acceptable to farmers. The initial results indicate that more research is needed, with greater focus on increasing yield. Based on these results, a decision has been reached to move forward from work solely focused on GR2-R to also include other versions of Golden Rice, such as GR2-E and others.
All the organizations involved in the work on Golden Rice appreciate the sentiments of those calling for a more rapid introduction of a healthier, beta-carotene-enriched rice variety, but the developments described above will result in a delay in the timeline. Adjustments in the research process are a normal part of product development, and the extent of this delay is being assessed. An updated timeline will be shared as soon as it becomes available, and we will continue to communicate developments on this site.
Research on Golden Rice continues to be motivated by its potential contributions to solving the global problem of vitamin A deficiency that afflicts more than 200 million people, especially women and children. The research is implemented with careful and strict adherence to the best international standards of scientific rigor and to the regulatory requirements of the countries of direct interest—the Philippines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.
As previously stated, this means that Golden Rice will only be made broadly available to farmers and consumers if it is: (a) successfully developed into rice varieties that retain the same yield, pest resistance, and grain quality—agronomic and eating traits acceptable to farmers and consumers—as current popular rice varieties; (b) deemed safe and approved by national regulators; and (c) shown to improve vitamin A status under community conditions. If Golden Rice is found to be safe and efficacious, a sustainable delivery program will ensure that Golden Rice is acceptable and accessible to those most in need.
IRRI and its many research partners remain committed to developing a high-performing Golden Rice variety that benefits farmers and consumers. The important mission of the Golden Rice project, i.e., to contribute to improving the health of millions of people suffering from micronutrient deficiency, demands that every step and aspect of the scientific study of Golden Rice produces good results. IRRI and all participating organizations will continue to rigorously follow all biosafety and other regulatory protocols in continuing the research to develop and disseminate Golden Rice.