The topic of genetically engineered crops is controversial at best and polarizing for many. Some would argue that the benefits of being able to alter a plant’s genetic structure to make it bigger, faster-growing and/or more nutritious, outweigh other factors. Others question the ethics, safety and regulations of such modifications.
However, those of us in the international eye health community are watching with interest one particular crop: golden rice. Developed in 1999, this genetically engineered rice helps combat blindness and death in children – one typical daily serving supplies a whopping 60 percent of the vitamin A critical for healthy eyes!
Over the years, Operation Eyesight and other international NGOs have worked steadily to distribute Vitamin A supplements to mothers and children in developing countries. However, the need is still immense. The World Health Organization states, “Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections.”
While growing crops may be outside our mandate, we will be interested in future research about golden rice and its potential for helping prevent blindness. If you’d like to read more, check out this Slate.com story.