Golden Rice: The Imperiled Birth of a GMO Superfood
By Ed Regis
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019, 256 pp.
Millions of people are blinded or die every year from diets low in nutrition. This fine and informative book explores one effort to find a remedy for vitamin deficiency. With private financing from the United States, European scientists began three decades ago to try to breed a strain of genetically modified rice that contains beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. By 2002, they had succeeded, creating a variety known as “golden rice” thanks to its color. But nearly 20 years later, only Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States—whose populations already have adequate levels of vitamin A in their diets—have allowed the release of this rice. Many official obstacles sit in the way of the spread of golden rice, with even approval for field trials difficult to secure. Regis shows that although nongovernmental organizations and activist groups such as Greenpeace have generated much emotional opposition to genetically modified organisms, it is government regulations and the glacial pace of plant breeding that have delayed the introduction of golden rice to the parts of the world where it would be most beneficial.