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d-40   

2019.04.26

In the spring of 1999, a Swiss scientist named Ingo Potrykus announced that his team had successfully created “golden rice,” a powerful weapon in the fight against world hunger and disease. Potrykus and his chief collaborator, Peter Beyer, took the genes responsible for making beta carotene in daffodils und inserted them into the DNA structures of a bacterium known as Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Altered bacteria were allowed to infect rice embryos, and in so doing they carried the genes that produce beta carotene into the endosperm of the rice. Beta carotene, which gives the new rice its golden color, does not normally occur in polished rice and is a vital ingredient in the body's production of vitamin A. Potrykus's dream is to use golden rice as a staple crop in those countries where 1 million children die and another 350,000 go blind each year because of vitamin A deficiency.    Predictably, not everyone is applauding golden rice. According to Dr. Richard Horton, editor of the British medical journal The Lancet, “Seeking a technological food fix for world hunger may be not only the biggest scientific controversy of our time but also the most commercially malevolent wild goose chase of the new century.” The debate over genetically modified food is now familiar to most people. On one side are scientists and agribusinesses pushing the Green Revolution.  They encourage intensive farming of a range of genetically modified crops with various attributes-from pest resistance to larger crop yields-built into their DNA, On the opposite side are other scientists and environmental groups who rug extreme caution, warning that the long-term results of genetic manipulation are not yet known, and that the consequences of wide spread interference in our food stuffs' genetic makeup may prove harmful further down the line X.    Another key issue for golden-rice opponents is that even if Potrykus's creation turns out to be a safe and controllable form of genetic modification, it still may not be the answer to the issue of vitamin A deficiency. There is a host of other issues that need to be addressed. Simply making a new crop available, argue the critics does not guarantee that it will reach the people who need it. In fact nearly three-fourths of malnourished children live in countries that boast food surpluses. As a spokesperson for the environmental group Greenpeace commented, “The real causes of hunger and malnutrition are poverty, poor food distribution, and a failure of political will.”    It remains to be seen whether golden rice and other products of genetic engineering can provide the most effective solution to world hunger. But how choosy can we afford to be? As this debate grew more complex, the scourge of malnutrition spreads unabated. Those opposed to genetically modified foods will continue to raise important issues, but for a starving child in a developing nation these issues are largely irrelevant. As the old saying goes: “With food there are many problems. Without food there is only one problem.”

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