Scientists and philanthropists alike have been pursuing creative methods of reducing vitamin deficiency, sometimes referred to as hidden hunger, among developing nations. The current lackluster efficiency of conventional food fortification and supplementation has given lift to alternative research regarding genetically modifying staple crops to be more vitamin-rich (termed biofortification) over the last 15 years. Here, Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) has been among the preliminary foci, where VAD kills up to 750,000 children each year, with hundreds of thousands others affected with blindness.
“Golden rice” was one of the first genetically modified crop to provide enough inherent pro-vitamin A, which gives rise to the yellow/orange or golden hue, that would reach the daily recommended vitamin dosage at a reasonable consumption rate. The development of biofortified golden sweet potatoes followed suit in 2016, with the latest crop being that of golden bananas. Recent research (estimated $7.6 million dollars in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) spearheaded by Professor James Dale of the Queensland University of Technology, has been recently published in the heralded Plant Biotechnology Journal, showcasing the efficacy and ability of genetically modifying crops already commonplace in developing countries to battle VAD.
Recent research (estimated $7.6 million dollars in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) spearheaded by Professor James Dale of the Queensland University of Technology, has been recently published in the heralded Plant Biotechnology Journal, showcasing the efficacy and ability of GM of crops already commonplace in developing countries to battle VAD.
Each of these crops embody the two birds with one stone trope – carb and vitamin value in an otherwise carb only crop – because they are. I view the long standing hesitancy and pre-emptiveness from global regulation and public perception of GMO’s as the major barriers to implementation. I feel disheartened to think that the distribution of a readily available solution to the people in need has not come to fruition.
Based on my experiences, it seems to be another example of legal progression lumbering behind the exponential development of science and technology; where drop-in solutions to long-standing issues are waiting in the wings. Most of these crops are aimed to be produced and distributed for free to those in need, deflecting the idea of big corporate’s malicious financial gain. I find it easy to marvel at the pace and ingenuity of agricultural biotechnology, but hard to swallow the notion that these new developments cannot be seen as anything but a lateral move; receiving much attention and funding to be placed on the backburner until deeper socioeconomic reforms are finally put into place. Especially when I take into account the prevalence of genetically modified soybeans in America today.
(Photo courtesy of UK Department for International Development)