Golden rice was developed by Peter Beyer and Ingo Portrykus and seed would be distributed for free to farmers (earning less than $10K per year) in countries where vitamin A deficient diets are responsible for at least 500K cases of childhood blindness each year. But because of opposition by Greenpeace and other knee-jerk anti GMO types, it's been a hard sell. I suppose I might be less troubled by their opposition if it was based on sound reasoning but this hardly seems to be the case. Consider this explanation for opposing the distribution of Golden Rice taken from Greenpeace's web site
The human food safety of GE rice is unknown. However, the environmental risk of GE rice is clear. Golden Rice could breed with wild and weedy relatives to contaminate wild rice forever. If there were any problems the clock could not be turned back.
When the risk is high, the potential consequences devastating, and the benefits unclear, precaution is called for.Human food safety? This is idiotic and a non-issue. Beta carotene is found in thousands of plants many of which have been consumed by humans for tens of thousands of years. Carrots are loaded with beta carotene; should we suppress the cultivation of carrots?
And how is the potential escape of a gene for beta-carotene into stocks of wild rice a risk? Even if you take the position that the genome of a wild plant should not be allowed to become "infected" with genes from an agricultural type (an absurd position anyway since genes from even widely unrelated organisms are moving between one form and another via transfer by viruses) you'd be hard pressed to prove that the presence of beta carotene poses any kind of risk.
Even the phrase "to contaminate wild rice forever" is little more than ridiculous hyperbole. If wild rice did pick up the gene for beta carotene and it was deemed necessary to bring the wild rice genome back to it's original state, well then, since the identity of the gene is known it could simply be taken out. In other words, the clock could turned back.
I cannot see Greenpeace's opposition to Golden Rice as anything other than a dogmatic reaction by an organization that seems to believe that genetic engineering is fundamentally wrong. Otherwise why would they oppose this? To be sure there are GM products that pose a clear and present danger and should be pulled off the market yesterday. Crops that have been modified to resist herbicides like Roundup are bad news because they encourage the over-application of chemicals that cause collateral damage to other organisms like amphibians and reptiles et al. Moreover, many of the business practices of companies that produce GMO crops -such as refusing to allow farmers to save seed stock- are reprehensible. But there is nothing fundamentally wrong with altering the genome of a plant or an animal (or a human for that matter).
Greenpeace needs to back off on this one and concentrate on fighting the good fight elsewhere.
Failures of Golden Rice | Greenpeace International