Saturday, 6 October 2012

MOP6/COP11: The golden rice experiment will open the Pandora’s Box leading to tinkering of genes of other important food crops like maize, wheat and sorghum

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 4: The golden rice experiment will open the Pandora’s
Box leading to tinkering of genes of other important food crops like
maize, wheat and sorghum.

Civil rights groups attending the Conference of Parties (COP-11) on
biological diversity here fear that if countries allow golden rice for
commercial production, transnational seed companies will play with the
genetic makeup of cereals, which will cause severe loss to
agricultural biodiversity.

Golden rice is genetically modified rice containing vitamin A obtained
from the genes of soil bacterium Erwinia uredovora and daffodil or
maize plants. Addition of vitamin A to rice gives it a golden colour,
and hence golden rice.

The Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, Malaysia-based
civil rights group, warns that the golden rice experiment on
fortifying the diet of the “poor” might well trigger off similar
approaches with other crops. “Scientists in the International
Programme on Rice |biotechnology had made the discovery that all
cereals have essentially the same basic genes as rice. This allows
much of what has been learned in the golden rice project to be applied
to maize, wheat, sorghum and other cereals,” points out biodiversity
activist Shalini Bhutani.

According to Charito P Medina, biodiversity conservationist from the
Philippines, the development and advocacy of golden rice is currently
very strong. “The governments of India and Switzerland have signed an
agreement for the technology transfer of genetically engineered
vitamin A rice.  Local transformation and breeding of golden rice is
undertaken by the Central Rice Research Institute, Punjab Agricultural
University, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and the University of
Delhi”, Charito said.

The varieties where Vitamin A is being engineered are IR64, ASD16,
PR114, and Pusa Basmati.

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