A word about golden rice. It’s a genetically modified rice which is the only variety in existence which can produce beta carotene: vitamin A. Now vitamin A is necessary to prevent blindness in the malnourished and therefore, vitamin deficient, small children as well as pregnant women of the world–not to mention, the rice will feed them.
GMO crops have been a controversy for as long as science fiction has written fiction about global catastrophes due to genetic engineering gone wrong. One has to look at the science. But it all comes down to the bottom dollar. A lot of farmers in developing countries don’t want GMO crops because they believe they would benefit multinational companies at the expense of small farmers. And they could be right. But the hungry and VAD (vitamin A deficient) don’t care where the food comes from. The situation is dire.
I am sure you are all familiar with Star Fleet’s Prime Directive of non-interference: “…it is the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution….” We blew that one a very long time ago and it can’t be undone, unless, of course we could travel back in time. But we can use our science and technology–our brightest minds–to solve the problem of food shortages, hunger, water and malnutrition. And policies have to be made to insure that local farmers get a piece of the pie that the agribusinesses are getting.
What is my opinion about GMO food? I’ve looked at the molecular structure of golden rice. They started with a “wild” type rice that has the genes to produce beta carotene but the genes are turned off. So, they engineered a new biosynthetic pathway to get that beta carotene engine working to produce vitamin A. It looks very promising. What’s the alternative? Let adults and children starve? Let small children go blind or die from vitamin deficiencies. Hey, if you can engineer a yellow summer squash that can’t be destroyed by squash bugs, I’ll buy it.
Plants have been genetically manipulated since the first early human dropped some seeds on the ground and became the first gardener on Cave Row. Animals, birds in particular, disperse seeds wherever they fly. Corn didn’t look like it does now thanks to humans intentionally cross-pollinating and selecting the desired traits. Dog breeders do it to the detriment of the animals. Granted, genetic engineering is not the same method as Mendel tenaciously performed with his peas, but it has the same outcome. A hardier, disease resistant, luscious pea. Maybe they glow in the dark, and those who eat a lot of peas might become as green as those ninja turtles, but do you really think that’s so bad?