There’s a kind of rice growing in some test plots in the Philippines that’s unlike any rice ever seen before. It’s yellow. Its backers call it “golden rice.” It’s been genetically modified so that it contains beta-carotene, the source of vitamin A.
Millions of people in Asia and Africa don’t get enough of this vital nutrient, so this rice has become the symbol of an idea: that genetically engineered crops can be a tool to improve the lives of the poor.
It’s a statement that rouses emotions and sets off fierce arguments. There’s a raging, global debate about such crops.
But before we get to that debate, and the role that golden rice plays in it, let’s travel back in time to golden rice’s origins.
It began with a conversation in 1984.
The science of biotechnology was in its infancy at this point. There were no genetically engineered crops yet. Scientists were just figuring out how to find genes and move them between different organisms
Photograph courtesy of Isagani Serrano/International Rice Research Institute