FDA approves Golden Rice as anti-GMO activists spin lies to keep kids blind

As reported on by New Scientist, Golden Rice has been approved in the United States by the FDA:

The rice contains extra genes that make a precursor to vitamin A, which is vital for preventing childhood blindness. A single helping can supply half the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, according to its developers at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. The genes also give it its distinctive golden hue.
The nod by the FDA makes the US the fourth country to approve the rice this year, behind Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

While there are no real plans to market the rice in the United States where the population overwhelmingly has an abundant supply of vitamin A in its diet, this means countries where it can be beneficial do not need to be concerned if any traces of it get mixed into their exports.

Approval is pending in Bangladesh and the Philippines where vitamin A deficiency is a large concern for their populations, and rice is a major staple diet. Making the fortified rice a very efficient solution to the deficiency, which causes blindness in thousands of people per year.

The technology was donated by Syngenta to the International Rice Research Institute, allowing this bioengineered crop to break free from the traditional fearmongering tied to corporate controlled bioengineered crops. Should the rice prove successful it could pave the way for the technology to be used to create even more solutions around the world. Something activists who oppose the technology in all its forms fear the most.

Fearing more global acceptance the anti-GMO movements have long waged war against golden rice. From Greenpeace stealing samples of the seed in 1995 to destroying field trials as recently as 2013.

The most recent attempt to destroy hopes for the technology involves a massive social media propaganda war involving a single cherry picked letter. The letter from the FDA states the following:

the concentration of β-carotene in GR2E rice is too low to warrant a nutrient content claim.

Latching on to this sentence like leeches to a skinny dipper, all the major anti-GMO sources from GM Watch to Michael Pollan are screaming about golden rice not having enough vitamin A.

The truth is the FDA was comparing American consumers to Asian consumers in regards to its benefit. Because the rice was developed for Asian markets where rice is a staple crop and vitamin A deficiency is much more prevalent, the FDA is just stating that it does not benefit US consumers. A representative from the FDA even commented in an attempt to clarify on one article posted on an organic industry front group, “Independent Science News”:

On June 4, the date of the posting of this story, I wrote Dr. Dennis M. Keefe, author of the FDA’s approval letter, asking him to clarify this statement that the beta carotene level in GR2E was too low to warrant a nutritional comment claim. Here is the FDA response for the record, received June 7….
It is unfortunate that the statement you reference in our letter responding to BNF 158 has been misconstrued to suggest that there would be no value of the pro-vitamin A in golden rice for its use in the countries where it is intended for distribution.
Our statement applies only to labeling considerations in the United States, in that golden rice contains insufficient pro-vitamin A to warrant differential labeling for nutrient content based on the low levels of rice consumption in the U.S. Requirements for nutrient content claims on labels in the United States take two factors into account, the amount of the nutrient needed as well as it’s concentration in the food and the typical or average level of that food consumed in the U.S. For the rice to be labeled in the United States with a claim containing provitamin A, our regulations stipulate that the food must contain 10–19 percent of the RDI or DRV for the substance per reference amount customarily consumed (essentially a measure of consumption).
Additionally, U.S. consumers eat rice at very low levels compared to consumers in the specific Asian countries with vitamin A deficiency for which golden rice was developed. IRRI reports that consumption of rice by children in Bangladesh is 12.5 g/kg body weight/day, compared to about 0.5 g/kg bw/d for U.S. consumers). Rice is the major staple in those countries and levels of rice consumption are many-fold higher than they are in the U.S. While a U.S Consumer would be unlikely to eat enough of the rice to achieve that value (10–19 % of the NDI or RDA), that does not mean that the level of consumption of golden rice in the targeted countries would be insufficient to accomplish the intended effect of supplementing their very low consumption of vitamin A-containing foods. Consuming rice containing the levels of pro-vitamin A in GR2E rice as a staple of the diet could have a significant public health impact in populations that suffer from vitamin A deficiency.

In other words, vitamin A rice is approved, but it doesn’t need a vitamin A label in the US because US consumers don’t typically consume the amount typically consumed in other parts of the world where it will be beneficial.

Unfortunately the damage is done. Anti-GMO groups from GMO Free USA to March Against Monsanto (golden rice has nothing to do with Monsanto or Bayer) pushed this headline with memes stretching across all of social media.

According to the World Health Organization:

An estimated 250 million preschool children are vitamin A deficient and it is likely that in vitamin A deficient areas a substantial proportion of pregnant women is vitamin A deficient.
An estimated 250 000 to 500 000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight.

And research from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concludes:

The β-carotene in GR is as effective as pure β-carotene in oil and better than that in spinach at providing vitamin A to children. A bowl of ∼100 to 150 g cooked GR (50 g dry weight) can provide ∼60% of the Chinese Recommended Nutrient Intake of vitamin A for 6–8-y-old children.

Inconvenient facts that get in the way of the almost religious like dogma of the anti-GMO and organic industry movements where biotechnology must be shunned like gay weddings at the Westboro Baptist Church.