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Interview With Professor Potrykus, Inventor of Golden Rice

Unknown Lamer posted 1 year,20 days | from the better-living-through-genetic-engineering dept.

Biotech 400

crabel writes "According to WHO, 127 millions of pre-school children worldwide suffer from vitamin A deficiency, causing some 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness every year. This deficiency is responsible for 600,000 deaths among children under the age of 5. Golden Rice might be a solution to this problem. The only problem? It's GMO. In an interview inventor Potrykus, now close to 80 years old, answers questions about the current state of approval, which might happen in the next couple of months."

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"The only problem? It's GMO." (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805563)

It being a GMO isn't a problem, unless you're a Luddite.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (3, Informative)

Garridan (597129) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805645)

Yup. The problem with GMO is that Monsanto uses it so they can soak crops with RoundUp. Say no to RoundUp, not GMO.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (5, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806101)

Yes, but we're talking about Golden Rice [wikipedia.org] here, which is nothing to do with RoundUp.

Golden Rice has exactly three extra genes in it. The modification made was openly published. Many widely eaten foods already contain the exact same genes The only reason it was added to rice is because that's what these people grow/eat on a daily basis.

And never pushed: not profitable. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806337)

If the idea is to help people, then forgo the patent entirely. cede it to the public. retract the patent.

If the idea is to make money from people's hunger, then keep the patents.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (-1, Offtopic)

abbiege (3057431) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806243)

My Uncle Charlie got GMC Yukon SUV only from working part-time off a home computer... .........>www.jobs60.com

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (5, Interesting)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805727)

The seeds being owned by a company is a problem, though. It's like open vs closed source but applied to food.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (2, Informative)

DrXym (126579) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805847)

Owned for 20 years, or 12 million alive and 10 million sighted children if you prefer. Then anybody can do what they like with the patent. It also doesn't stop some rival from producing a crop with equivalent properties expressed through some other means.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (4, Insightful)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805897)

That's a false dichotomy - there's more than one way to skin a cat. How about we encourage them to grow more sweet potatoes (which naturally have a high vitamin A content) rather than forcing them to grow cash crops to export in a futile attempt to pay back their international debts?

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (1, Flamebait)

DrXym (126579) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805965)

I assume this rice given its properties was largely developed for domestic consumption so I don't see that your point is valid.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (2)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806079)

I'm sorry, I don't follow what you mean by "domestic consumption" and how that refutes anything.

Vitamin A deficiency is a worldwide problem with the worst affected area being Africa and the least affected areas being North America, Europe and Russia.

The big advantage of having high vitamin A in rice is that a lot of cultures have rice as their main staple, so in theory it's a quick way of increasing worldwide vitamin A consumption. The downside is the GMO/ownership issues.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (2)

DrXym (126579) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806113)

Domestic consumption as in the rice would be predominantly eaten in the country that grew it to alleviate vitamin A and other mineral deficiencies. Note that this rice is targeted for the Philippines and from TFA mention was made of cassava and sweet potatoes for other countries. So it doesn't follow it would be "forcing them to grow cash crops to export" since it's unlikely that was ever the intention.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (1)

DrXym (126579) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806117)

"this rice is targeted" -> "this rice trial is targeted"

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (4, Insightful)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806137)

I was mainly thinking about Africa, rather than the Philippines, but the same situation exists there as well.

It's not the rice that is forcing them to grow cash crops, but it's their external debt that forces them to grow cash crops for export which then leads to local consumers being unable to afford the crops that are grown within their own country.

Ownership of the seeds from a crop is vitally important to people who are trying to feed themselves as they may not be able to purchase the seeds for the next season if they have a bad season. If they switch away from traditional crops (that they can keep the seed from) to GMO crops, they'd better have kept enough seed for switching back again if they fall on hard times.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (5, Insightful)

rycamor (194164) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806003)

No kidding. The anti-Luddites are just as bad as the Luddites when it comes to this stuff. There is a whole spectrum of food available without needing to rely on someone's patented experiment.

With sweet potato, it's not just vitamin A. they have about the highest concentration and spectrum of vitamins you will find in any common crop. And it's freaking easy to grow. The problem is not lack of technology, but lack of simple knowledge and willingness to apply it.

Another crop that is ridiculously easy to grow in temperate and tropical zones is the moringa tree, which produces copious edible leaves and seed pods, with a near-miraculous nutritional profile. Unfortunately, try to get poor Africans to grow it and eat it and they will often turn up their noses in disgust, calling it "poor people food". Sweet potato often receives the same low-brow snobbery in the USA, actually.

The problem of nutrition is always more cultural than anything else. Look at the USA itself, where abundant nutritious food is available, yet the average American gets most of his calories from high-fructose corn syrup (delivered to your gullet in many sneaky ways). And when you add up HFCS and highly-processed grains, that probably accounts for a good 85% of the calories eaten in this country.

So yes, "golden rice" might solve a problem, in the sense that it would fool culturally-bound people who are unwilling to forego rice as their staple food. But it's hardly the only way. And I do remain highly suspicious of the long-term risk/benefit scenario with GMOs.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (5, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806221)

Another crop that is ridiculously easy to grow in temperate and tropical zones is the moringa tree, which produces copious edible leaves and seed pods, with a near-miraculous nutritional profile. Unfortunately, try to get poor Africans to grow it and eat it and they will often turn up their noses in disgust, calling it "poor people food". Sweet potato often receives the same low-brow snobbery in the USA, actually.

Hah. Golden rice could actually bump into the same problem. For some peculiar reasons, in many parts of the world, white rice - pretty much like white-anything (bread, flour, people...you name it) is subconsciously considered "purer" and anything else has a poverty stigma attached to it. Don't ask me why, it just happens. Trying to convince Asians to eat something ricey AND brown or yellow or orange may prove difficult. Don't know about Africans but you find this kind of food idiocy pretty much anywhere, so I guess there's a solid chance that golden rice will actually be a tough sale (*especially* since it's been *designed* as "food for poor people who couldn't afford better diet otherwise").

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (4, Insightful)

N1AK (864906) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806311)

So yes, "golden rice" might solve a problem, in the sense that it would fool culturally-bound people who are unwilling to forego rice as their staple food. But it's hardly the only way. And I do remain highly suspicious of the long-term risk/benefit scenario with GMOs.

It would solve the problem of insufficient vitamin A and virtually instantly; I really can't see how that point is debatable, even by people who think it is a bad idea for other reasons.

There are dozens of possible solutions, virtually all of which have been available for decades now. They aren't being applied. Moving people to 'golden rice' is a trivial change comparative to trying to change the diet of hundreds of millions of people, the crops of millions of farmers and the supply chain for millions of tonnes of food.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (3, Interesting)

idji (984038) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806361)

I remember an Ethiopian turning his nose up in disgust at having to eat leeks, "That is a poor person's food".

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806261)

There are no licensing issues with Golden Rice. All patent holders have long ago agreed to free use for humanitarian purposes.
"Open vs closed source" is a problem in general, but not for Golden Rice.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806325)

Yep, I read about that after posting.

However, I still have some concerns about licensing food crops, even though Golden Rice has been developed for humanitarian reasons (they did try to commercialise it, but developed countries aren't vitamin A deficient so there wasn't much of a market). There's always the possibility that some of the related license holders can change their minds and nothing about patents is ever clear cut.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (1)

game kid (805301) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805911)

It also doesn't stop some rival from producing a crop with equivalent properties expressed through some other means.

...and there's the problem. By enabling Monsanto to patent life, you encourage others to do so. Even if Monsanto only used its patent in some copyleft sort of way, you'd have some even greater asshole or two or 37 who decide that once a nice breeze brings some of their pollen into your crops, you've become a dirty floppy-copying "IP" thief ripe to bend over de jure.

At least your orifices will be Roundup Ready(tm) once they're done.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (2)

DrXym (126579) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805943)

They haven't "patented life" they have patented one way of countless of increasing the vitamin & iron content of a staple food. If countries don't want to pay a corp which has put millions, possibly billions into developing this crop with the reasonable expectation of profit then they should develop their own alternative or provide their population with education and supplements that they don't go blind or die.

India obviously has the odd loose billion given they've just built a nuclear sub.

Or just pay the going rate and wait for the patent to expire.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805809)

Apparently, you never heard of the GMO potato, that caused cancerous tissue in rat intestine.
These stories are rutinely removed from the web very quickly, this is one of the few I could find:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/suppressed-report-shows-cancer-link-to-gm-potatoes-436673.html
Also, google "GM soy allergies".

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (5, Informative)

Pi1grim (1956208) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805997)

Apparently you haven't read the study itself. Which was conducted on mice genetically predisposed to cancer and that during the process control groups were changed so that results would better fit the theory of cancer-inducing GMO. Articles are being removed, because the study was a conducted with so many violations it's result cannot be trusted and since independent attempts to reproduce the results of the study, conducted thoroughly have not come to the same conclusions. But, please, go ahead and don't let facts get in your way of fear-mongering.

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (1)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806119)

These stories are rutinely removed from the web very quickly, this is one of the few I could find:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/suppressed-report-shows-cancer-link-to-gm-potatoes-436673.html [independent.co.uk]

So ... anything can be true so long as there's an article somewhere on the Internet, right?

In that case I'm guessing this guy [duesberg.com] is the only person who knows the real truth about AIDS, yes?

Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806241)

I know yours was more on-topic, but you wanted an example of a whacko theory on a website and you didn't go for this guy [timecube.com] ?

GMO is not a problem (3, Insightful)

kruach aum (1934852) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805567)

Ignorance and fear are the problem.

Re:GMO is not a problem (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805679)

Ignorance and fear are the problem.

GMO could be a problem depending on how it is done and how it is deployed. Ignorance and fear prevent any meaningful discussion of the matter. Calling for more research into the risks and then trampling experimental crop fields doesn't help either.

Re:GMO is not a problem (4, Informative)

kruach aum (1934852) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805953)

What you describe is a problem of ignorance, not a potential problem specific to GMO. Everything could be a problem depending on how it is executed. Wells can bring water to thousands. Shitting in wells can also bring cholera to thousands. Neither has anything to do with wells, and everything to do with knowledge.

Re:GMO is not a problem (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806089)

Ignorance and fear are the problem.

GMO could be a problem depending on how it is done and how it is deployed. Ignorance and fear prevent any meaningful discussion of the matter. Calling for more research into the risks and then trampling experimental crop fields doesn't help either.

Monsanto Marketeers would call that "anti-advertising".

Most of the ignorance and fear you speak of stems directly from the mistrust in the very companies controlling GMOs, who go so far as to prevent any such labeling on any food to merely identify it as containing their own product. Perhaps if certain companies were a bit more open and honest instead of wanting to secure profits in any way possible, the ignorance and fear could be quelled.

Re:GMO is not a problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805713)

One sided proprietary research (just like with pharmaceuticals) and lack of any kind of research is the problem. And billion dollar commercial interests pushing these things nobody understands to market. And technocratic idiots who think anybody who asks a question is an enemy and fear and ignorance must be adjectives to describe him.

HAND

Re:GMO is not a problem (2)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805763)

One sided proprietary research (just like with pharmaceuticals) and lack of any kind of research is the problem.

Wars in the Middle East don't pay for themselves, you know...

Re:GMO is not a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805821)

GM crops are at least as "understood" as non-GM. YOU don't understand them. And from this lack of understanding comes your argument.

Textbook FUD.

And you fail precautionary principle test. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805873)

We have seen how non-gmo invasive species fuck everything up and you think that because of that we should fuck it up ourselves with GMO product?

Logic was never your bedfellow, was it.

Re:And you fail precautionary principle test. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805917)

What a surprise. Yet again you offer nothing but baseless speculation. The fact that something is GM does not magically make it an ecological WMD.

Re:GMO is not a problem (5, Insightful)

kf6auf (719514) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805957)

It's not entirely the fault of the populace that they are ignorant. Have you tried finding out in what way GMO foods at your local supermarket have been modified?

Heck, if the agriculture companies had started using genetic engineering to make crops healthier, they would have been far more likely to be accepted. But they started by making crops more watery (and thus less nutritious), making it so farmers can blanket entire US states with herbicides without affecting the desired crops, and introducing pesticides that AFAIK are just assumed to be safe. So a broad brush was used, and because of the agriculture companies it was the bad brush instead of the good one.

Re:GMO is not a problem (3, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806125)

It's not entirely the fault of the populace that they are ignorant. Have you tried finding out in what way GMO foods at your local supermarket have been modified?

In the case of Golden Rice the modification have been widely published.

Even Wikipedia has them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_rice [wikipedia.org]

Re:GMO is not a problem (1, Insightful)

daem0n1x (748565) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806231)

The real problem is this kind of complicated, expensive and dangerous "solution" when simply introducing other crops that naturally provide vitamin D would fix the issue.

Reminds me of that old joke about the US spending millions of dollars to develop a pen which can write in space, and the Soviet cosmonauts simply using a pencil.

Re:GMO is not a problem (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806245)

Fix: I wrote "vitamin D", I meant "vitamin A". I keep confusing them all the time.

Re:GMO is not a problem (4, Insightful)

N1AK (864906) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806349)

I find it interesting that you think changing agricultural practice and diet across a gigantic swathe of the globe is 'simple'.

If Norman Borlaug had tried to introduce more efficient crops instead of developing dwarf wheat he would not have saved hundreds of millions of lives and been awarded one of the most appropriate nobel peace prizes for his work.

Golden rice is licensed freely to small farmers and they are free to re-use seed so there's no typical lock-in risk.

We know the modifications that have been made to the rice. We know the nutritional and organic content of the rice produced. There's no credible reason to believe that golden rice will have negative health consequences; but we know for damn sure that people are dying and going blind now.

Idiots are against Golden Rice (4, Insightful)

rossz (67331) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805589)

Idiots who shop at Whole Foods would rather a child go blind due to vitamin deficiency rather than allow an evil GMO food to be used. Their suggestion of "they should eat more vegetables" ignores the simple fact that they need the special rice because they don't have access to the fucking vegetables.

Tons of food have been destroyed in Africa because of this ignorance. It's better that people starve rather than risk ingesting a GMO food. What. The. Fuck?

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805653)

Are you really that surprised? Africa's seen this sort of insanity before. Better let AIDS spread like wildfire than allow sinful condoms to be used.

Newsflash: people are idiots and idiot people will believe whatever any authority figure will tell them under certain conditions. The good feeling they get thinking they're acting on behalf of a deity (in one case) or that they're acting to rid the planet of toxic evil food (in the other case) is all they need.

The Lifemother has the last laugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805703)

By allowing HIV to spread, the Africans will evolve HIV resistance. In the mean time, the high mortality rates will prevent oversupply of labor, resulting in better wages and working conditions for African laborers.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805835)

Actually, what I assume you mean is the way condom supply and education in Africa is severly restricted by USS aid funding where US religious organisations refuse aid in areas where condoms and sex education are given?

Its the Americans (well, not all of them, but enough..) who consider them sinful, for others, not the Africans.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805925)

Not only that. The Catholic Church is well known for spreading lies about condom use in Africa. The most common one is that contracting HIV is more likely if you're using condoms. Of course the official dogma of the Catholic Church is that any use of condoms, no matter if it's used outside marriage or not, is sinful. To the best of my knowledge none of the pops in history have been from the US. The United States does not hold a complete monopoly on stupidity or religious zealotry, in a way you could say it merely imported both from the Old World... and perfected it a bit :)

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (3, Funny)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805657)

Their suggestion of "they should eat more vegetables"

When I read this, I thought you were joking, thinking, "no one could be as stupid as suggesting that." Then sure enough, right after, I read this [slashdot.org] comment. I guess they are that stupid!

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805689)

Wow, you have extrapolated from a trolling AC to stereotyping people who are doubtful about GMOs. For all you know rossz posted that just to make his own over-the-top post post look more plausible.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (3)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805745)

I didn't extrapolate, although I can see how you might have misread my post that way.

In general, I have a low opinion of those who irrationally hate oppose golden rice, for reasons mentioned above. People are worried about some hypothetical, speculative harm caused by these GMOs, and are willing to let people die for no other reason than their own fears. This particular rice has been studied a lot, has provable benefit compared to some speculative risk, and people who oppose it generally do so for irrational reasons.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806183)

In general, I have a low opinion of those who irrationally hate oppose golden rice, for reasons mentioned above.

Ah, so no it wasn't extrapolation, it was confirmation bias.

After all, an AC saying something like, "And guess what, no Monsanto can sue you for growing unmodified carrots!" means he's an example of mainstream criticism of GMOs.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805767)

In fact, you might say that "golden rice" is a kind of shibboleth, a test to determine whether anti-GMO people are able to reason about topics well, or whether they are completely irrational in their fears. Greenpeace falls into the irrational category here.

The benefits of the rice are so obvious that you have to be somewhat blind to completely oppose its use in Africa.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (1)

Chrisq (894406) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805815)

Their suggestion of "they should eat more vegetables"

When I read this, I thought you were joking, thinking, "no one could be as stupid as suggesting that." Then sure enough, right after, I read this [slashdot.org] comment. I guess they are that stupid!

Yes stupid, when obviously we should let them eat cake

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (1)

reub2000 (705806) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806085)

Carrot cake, DUH!

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805675)

uhhh.. while your rant is mostly valid overall, it's not just a little bit off the mark.... the target market for this particular product is NOT rich, ignorant soccer moms.. it's poor or developing regions of the world that grows and consumes, per person, enough rice to achieve a benefit from the modifications.. think thailand, cambodia, laos, vietnam, china.. not denton, texas.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (2)

m00sh (2538182) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805731)

Idiots who shop at Whole Foods would rather a child go blind due to vitamin deficiency rather than allow an evil GMO food to be used. Their suggestion of "they should eat more vegetables" ignores the simple fact that they need the special rice because they don't have access to the fucking vegetables.

Tons of food have been destroyed in Africa because of this ignorance. It's better that people starve rather than risk ingesting a GMO food. What. The. Fuck?

Would rather die from cardio-vascular disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer then?

We tinkered around with our food system and 2/3 of the population is over-weight and 1/3 is obese. We suffer from heart disease, diabetes and related problems in epidemic proportions.

Maybe the solution isn't genetically modifying rice but something simpler as finding the right vegetables to grow alongside the rice that supplies the missing vitamin.

Plus, vitamin A in excess is toxic and causes liver damage. Maybe we fix childhood blindness but instead give teenage cirrhosis.

Just because we can genetically modify plants doesn't mean we should go around looking for problems to solve with it, especially that can have large possibly unknown consequences.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805795)

We tinkered around with our food system and 2/3 of the population is over-weight and 1/3 is obese. We suffer from heart disease, diabetes and related problems in epidemic proportions.

Heart disease, diabetes and related problems are usually related to overweight. Golden Rice is about malnutrition.

Maybe the solution isn't genetically modifying rice but something simpler as finding the right vegetables to grow alongside the rice that supplies the missing vitamin.

That's what Greenpeace et al. recommends. Doesn't work. People need their land for rice.

Plus, vitamin A in excess is toxic and causes liver damage. Maybe we fix childhood blindness but instead give teenage cirrhosis.

Golden Rice doesn't contain vitamin A. It is enriched with -carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. Overconsumption is not a problem. (If you eat really *alot* your skin becomes orange, but this wellknown condition is benign)

Just because we can genetically modify plants doesn't mean we should go around looking for problems to solve with it, especially that can have large possibly unknown consequences.

Agree. It's better to put our trust in arbitrary fears and let a couple of million children go blind.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (1)

m00sh (2538182) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806091)

Agree. It's better to put our trust in arbitrary fears and let a couple of million children go blind.

All I'm saying is that genetically modifying rice to produce vitamin A sounds like a professor with a lab looking for things to do rather than someone really trying to solve the real vitamin A deficiency problem.

The simplest solution seems to be to grow some carrots or other vitamin A rich food alongside rice. But, maybe you're right and they need every inch of their land to grow rice and can't spare any for other vegetables.

Maybe we all become orange oompa-loompas eating nothing but fortified rice.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (2)

Dave Emami (237460) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805875)

Would rather die from cardio-vascular disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer then?

Yes, I would rather live longer and die from those things than to die earlier from malnutrition or related problems.

We tinkered around with our food system and 2/3 of the population is over-weight and 1/3 is obese.

I'm sure having readily-available food has caused average weight to rise, but I'm skeptical about how much of a factor that is compared to reduction in exercise. Until quite recently (in the evolutionary and historical scheme of things), humans have had to burn a lot of calories just to stay alive -- food, shelter, and protection all required heavy exercise to acquire, produce, and/or maintain. Even after the advent of agriculture, the vast majority of the population spent their time doing manual labor to grow food, and the rest of the population tended to do manual labor that was just as intensive. Staying alive required you to plow a field, or chop wood, or haul stones, etc. Today, most of us here on Slashdot (and a lot of other people around us) gain our food, shelter, and protection by making little motions with our fingers, talking, and every so often moving a short distance within a building. We don't have to exercise to survive (in the day-to-day sense). Exercise is something we have to deliberately seek out.

Shorter version: I think the problem is more our lack of caloric output than our excessive caloric input.

We suffer from heart disease, diabetes and related problems in epidemic proportions.

Until human beings cease to be mortal, by definition something will be killing us in vast numbers. And unless those causes of death are evenly spread out, some things will always be glaring problems compared to everything else. All we can do is change what those things are, and hopefully make them happen later in life.

Malnutrition isn't blindness. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805921)

And you can live longer blind than you can with cardio problems.

Way not to read the flaming article.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (2)

sFurbo (1361249) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805909)

Plus, vitamin A in excess is toxic and causes liver damage. Maybe we fix childhood blindness but instead give teenage cirrhosis.

Given that it was originally was (and potentially still is) a problem that it did not contain enough vitamin A, I don't think vitamin A toxicity is a potential problem. Furthermore, testing whether this is a problem and what can be done if it is is what we have research for, not what we have blind, Luddite panic for.

Just because we can genetically modify plants doesn't mean we should go around looking for problems to solve with it, especially that can have large possibly unknown consequences.

Yes, god forbid that we try to solve problems with technology. Where would THAT leave us? Especially with technology that can have unspecified "large possibly unknown consequences". I prefer my solutions without any potential problems. I haven't found any such solutions yet, but I am confident that I will strike gold any day now.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (1)

m00sh (2538182) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806045)

Yes, god forbid that we try to solve problems with technology. Where would THAT leave us? Especially with technology that can have unspecified "large possibly unknown consequences". I prefer my solutions without any potential problems. I haven't found any such solutions yet, but I am confident that I will strike gold any day now.

There is a difference between solving problems with technology and going looking for problems to solve with the technology we have.

I guess you prefer your solutions which produce larger problems than the initial problem it solved.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805787)

I am not a "nature is my mother" hippie (e.g., i HATE Greenpeace!) but... GMO food is a drastic way to fight vitamin deficiency (or any other problem GMO solves) - we do have other solutions (for vitamin deficiency: eat more vegetables - and if not available... plant more vegetables!), and in any case the risks* from GMO are still greater than the benefits (especially when other solutions -without risks- are available).
* risk in this case is when you suspect -for good scientific reasons- a really bad outcome - the sientific community must be provided with more time to conclude about GMO without the commercial rushing it.

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805919)

we do have other solutions (for vitamin deficiency: eat more vegetables - and if not available... plant more vegetables!)

And in environments where that isn't possible, everyone can just eat candy! And ride unicorns! Yeah!

Re:Idiots are against Golden Rice (1)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805883)

This is a commercially licensed product owned by a corporation spending the money to market it. Let me restate that, this particular plant is OWNED by a private company.

You think they're creating the plant because "they" (the starving people) are hungry? This biotech company wants to make money by prolifigating their crop throughout the developing world (because .. you know, they *need* it) and making money from countries desperate to keep their people alive.

It's not just the GMO part, the concerns are much, much, much larger than the not so simple question of "To GMO or not to GMO". It's about the continuation of life on this planet not beholden to corporate interests.

Unlicensed seeds? (1)

codeusirae (3036835) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805931)

What about all those poor farmers who can't save their own seeds unless they go back to Monsanto for a license?

File it under Dunning/Kruger (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806037)

Idiots who shop at Whole Foods would rather a child go blind due to vitamin deficiency rather than allow an evil GMO food to be used.

That simply is not true, most of those people would be unaware that vitamin A deficiency causes blindness and how widespread the problem is, so how they can possibly "prefer" it? If both sides go around accusing the other of being "evil" then nobody will be enlightened. Sure there's some unethical marketing involved in pushing "health foods" and it should be highlighted on sites such as this one by knowledgeable people, but really it's no worse than the industry standard since the same claim of "unethical marketing" can (and has) be made about fast food and soft-drink companies.

"Let them eat veggies" is no different to "let them eat cake" or "let them eat string cheese", the reason people say such idiotic things is due to plain ignorance, it's not stupidity, and it certainly does not imply they "prefer to see kids go blind". At most it implies the person has lead a "sheltered" life and have done a poor job of self-education on that particular subject.

At the end of the day I firmly believe the government has as much right to tell me what I put in my body as it does telling me what to put in my mind, ie: none. Having said that the government does have a strong role to play in ensuring public health, checking advertising claims and labelling, and promoting the most accurate health information science can provide. The reason I think we need those regulations (aside from preventing fraud) is because I recognise no single person is an expert on everything they eat, drink, inhale, or inject, they do not (and cannot) know the chemical makeup of everything they consume. In my experience most people consume what they do for two reasons, taste and/or inducing a state of altered consciousness.

Starvation, as seen in Africa and parts of Asia, is a completely different state of mind and is all about nutrition. Once you starve yourself beyond a few days, taste no longer matters and the hallucinations are free. In fact you can get the hallucinations in (normally) less than two days by simply not drinking and staying awake. Not that I recommend doing those things, it's just that when you get to my age (50+) it's almost a given that you will have experienced at least one (non drug induced) auditory or visual hallucination of some kind, in my experience the majority of those are induced by lack of sleep. Often combined with the dehydration of a hang over ;).

Re: Idiots are against Golden Rice (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806291)

The myth that GMOs can feed the world was put to rest some time ago. And the appeal to emotions shows you are bereft of an argument. This is all about making money. Stop hiding behind "won't someone think of the children".

The obvious solution (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805605)

Instead of adding genes to rice that make it contain more vitamin A, people should simply eat more carrots.
And guess what, no Monsanto can sue you for growing unmodified carrots!

Re:The obvious solution (3, Informative)

joostje (126457) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805695)

Monsanto cannot sue for golden rice either, as there are free licences available, see access for those who need it [goldenrice.org]

Re:The obvious solution (1)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805749)

Instead of adding genes to rice that make it contain more vitamin A, people should simply eat more carrots.

Good luck finding an 'unmodified carrot'.

Oh, wait. If it was modified more then 100 years ago it doesn't count as evil.

Yes, and you fail biology now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805889)

If "GMO" were the same thing as cross breeding, it would not be possible to patent it.

They are not the same.

Re:The obvious solution (0)

geekymachoman (1261484) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805905)

> Oh, wait. If it was modified more then 100 years ago it doesn't count as evil.

That's not it. If it was modified by human experimentation then it counts.. as a potential problem.
By "human experimentation" I don't mean taking two species and leaving stuff for _nature_ to either do it's thing or not do, understand ?
Especially if that "human" is a corporation ... like Monsanto.

Programmers should understand this better. Occasionally I'm amazed that so many tech people are pro-gmo-as-we-know-it. It's a cool thing, but some of us aren't playing games when it comes to our health.

Usually people that said what you said also say something like "gmo is cool because we're running out of food" which is the stupidest thing a smart person can say. We can feed a lot more people. The bigger problem is distribution and allocation, but for this we don't need GMO we need politics and governments that are actually working for the people, and not for themselves and upper 1 % whoever they might be and corporations that are only interested in profit.

Re:The obvious solution (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806075)

It's a cool thing, but some of us aren't playing games when it comes to our health.

Why would GMO affect your health? Do you have any idea what percentage of 'natural' plants are nasty, poisonous, cancer-inducing, etc.?

eg. Potatoes. When they turn green in sunlight it's because they're making a deadly poison to protect themselves. It can cause illness, birth defects and even death. There's no way a potato would get FDA approval if it was introduced in our diets today.

Tomatoes have it, too. You know potatoes and tomatoes are members of the nightshade family, right? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solanine [wikipedia.org]

I hope you're totally paranoid about potatoes and ask to inspect them before cooking if you're in a restaurant. Peeling away the green skin doesn't remove it (the green is only chlorophyll, not the Solanine) and it's not affected by heat. You do, ask, right?

Oh, wait...people have been eating them for more than 100 years so it doesn't count.

Re:The obvious solution (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806017)

Posting anon to avoid removing mods

Syngenta != Monstano;
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology != Monsanto;
University of Freiburg != Monsanto;

In this case, even Monsanto (Potrykus has spearheaded an effort to have golden rice distributed for free to subsistence farmers. Free licenses for developing countries were granted quickly due to the positive publicity that golden rice received, particularly in Time magazine in July 2000. Golden rice was said to be the first recombinant DNA tech crop that was unarguably beneficial. Monsanto Company was one of the first companies to grant free licences.

The cutoff between humanitarian and commercial use was set at US$10,000. Therefore, as long as a farmer or subsequent user of golden rice genetics does not make more than $10,000 per year, no royalties need to be paid. In addition, farmers are permitted to keep and replant seed. [ Courtesy of Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] ]) != Monsanto;

STFU with your (and every other persons) rant about Monsanto in this thread. Not everyone is the devil incarnate Monsanto, not even Monsanto all the time.

I can't imagine (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805611)

600k more children living... I bet they're some place that is already suffering a child shortage right? Great, so you fix their death by problem 1 and lead them right into death by problems 2 through 100.

Re:I can't imagine (3, Interesting)

Namarrgon (105036) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805775)

Bet you didn't know that when you reduce child mortality rates, population growth rates actually go down [singularityhub.com] , not up.

Re:I can't imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805907)

That's pretty common knowledge nowadays but somehow baby factories are still churning out more than 2 babies per couple. I mean his graphs show it right there! Many countries have move to small family/long life, unfortunately that hasn't stopped the factories as our global population is clearly indicating

Re:I can't imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805867)

Two problems.

First. Any time you see excess mortality, it also means 10X suffer ill health and injury. So some children die, more go blind. That is a huge burden, that isn't at all compensated by 'less people'

Second. It doesn't follow that high childhood mortality results in low population growth, unless you're right at the Malthusian limit. Reduced childhood mortality results a generation later in lower birthrates. What is important is to push populations away from the Malthusian limit _as fast as possible_ if you want long term sustainable populations. So you want to reduce childhood mortality.

That said, the cost of vitamin A supplements in poor countries is like $1 per year per child. We could reduce the number of F-35's we're going to buy by a couple and pay for that.

Re:I can't imagine (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806127)

We are all going to die, so by your own logic there's a "death problem" with the number (last_death_problem_num_fixed + N) that is going to kill you. Also according to your own logic you should stop solving your own "death problems" instantly in order to reach the optimum value of N=0 (as implied by your post). In fact if you put some effort in maybe you could get to the optimum value faster by creating some artificial "death problems" for yourself.

In other words: Fuck off and die, because there's certainly no room for your particular brand of trolling on Slashdot.

The problem with golden rice is lack of fat (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805733)

For the body to take advantage of the vitamin A it needs to be consumed with fat.
So the poor people should make sure to have a good kebab with their portion of rice...

Re:The problem with golden rice is lack of fat (5, Interesting)

joostje (126457) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805757)

rice [wikipedia.org] contains more fat (0.66 gr/100gr) than carrots [wikipedia.org] , so the golden rice should be at least as effective as carrots then. And yes, meat would be good too, but very expensive.

Re:The problem with golden rice is lack of fat (1)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806139)

rice [wikipedia.org] contains more fat (0.66 gr/100gr) than carrots [wikipedia.org]

Oh, the pesky facts...

Re:The problem with golden rice is lack of fat (1)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806145)

For the body to take advantage of the vitamin A it needs to be consumed with fat.
So the poor people should make sure to have a good kebab with their portion of rice...

If only there was a way to find out whether or not the vitamin A in Golden Rice could be absorbed by humans...like, I dunno, eating some. Nah, you'd have to be a reckless idiot to do that. Much better to sit around on the Internet and imagine ways it might not work.

Oh, wait, somebody did eat some! http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/6/1776.full.pdf [nutrition.org]

All about GMO now.. (1)

geekymachoman (1261484) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805783)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_A [wikipedia.org] and check "Sources" section.

So... why ? I mean if there's a country in Africa that doesn't have access to anything containing vitamin a, then ok sell this rice to them. 99 % of us are ingesting it daily already.

Re:All about GMO now.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805869)

99 % of us are ingesting it daily already.

You seem to have missed the part of your own article which states "Vitamin A deficiency is estimated to affect approximately one third of children under the age of five around the world", so obviously there really are a lot of people who don't have access to the foods listed in the "sources" section.

Re:All about GMO now.. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805887)

yeah plenty of food in the world and not a famine in sight... sigh.

The problem with GMO is licensing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805807)

GMO per se are at least sometime OK, sometime probably not. For instance I don't think glyphosate (aka RoundUp (tm)) resistance is a good idea, as it will inevitably lead to glyphosate overuse and will make its way into our food with undocumented side effects. However in this case adding beta-carotene to rice is probably a good idea.

The problem is licensing. It costs more money to plant golden rice. License holders have given out free licenses to subsistence farmers, and seed reuse is OK. However I think this is a foot in the door. Make no mistake, golden rice is not a humanitarian endeavour, it is 100% commercial.

Re:The problem with GMO is licensing (2)

Chrisq (894406) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805841)

GMO per se are at least sometime OK, sometime probably not. For instance I don't think glyphosate (aka RoundUp (tm)) resistance is a good idea, as it will inevitably lead to glyphosate overuse and will make its way into our food with undocumented side effects. However in this case adding beta-carotene to rice is probably a good idea.

The problem is licensing. It costs more money to plant golden rice. License holders have given out free licenses to subsistence farmers, and seed reuse is OK. However I think this is a foot in the door. Make no mistake, golden rice is not a humanitarian endeavour, it is 100% commercial.

I think that this is one of the few good use of GMOs. I'd rather not have food that is engineered to produce compounds toxic to pests, no matter how often I am assured that its OK. And I share your concern about resistance to pesticides. However improving the nutritional value, like golden rice, or making plants drought resistant, able to tolerate salt so they can be grown in estuary areas, etc. seems fine to me,

Well, there was another problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44805855)

Its not profitable, therefore it was only developed as a PR mechanism.

I guess so many people knew about that that they decided they had to ask for permission.

Professor Potrykus (2)

tinkerton (199273) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805913)

Damn you've got a cool name!

GMO won't fix this (2, Insightful)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805915)

You can artificially put vitamin A in (expensive, copyrighted) rice, but you won't fix the poverty that is the cause of all this. Once these people will (maybe, if they can afford it) have access to rice with vitamin A in it, the next deficiency will kill the "new" survivors. Fix their poverty, not their lack of vitamin A in their food. They will take care of the vitamin A without having to resort to GMO rice. Spending money on this sort of food modification won't pay for anyone but the copyright holders. It's not even about the "risks" of GMO, it's about the futility of trying to solve poverty with it.

Re:GMO won't fix this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806053)

So in your world, blindness and other consequences of nutritional deficiency is in no way a driver of poverty? In my world, if we fix those things, there would be fewer poor people a generation later than there would be if we didn't fix those things. In my world, with poverty, it's a big deal to make people healthy enough that they can take care of themselves. That might not make them non-poor on its own but it will certainly make them less poor and just in general a lot better off than if they are riddled with crippling health issues. It doesn't matter if there are good/better jobs available if you are too sick to do those jobs. If daddy is too sick to work and mother has to take care of him, there might not be enough time or money to keep daddy alive and pay for the children's education, as an example. Nutrition is a big deal. Diseases are too.

Not to mention, good nutrition lowers birth rates because parents don't have to get 7 children just to be fairly certain that at least a few of them will survive and be healthy. Lower birth rates leads to reduced overpopulation. Overpopulation is a driver of poverty. No matter how you look at it, good nutrition is a morally good thing to provide and it does, in fact, help poor people lift themselves out of poverty. It's not the only thing that can/should be done, but it is certainly one of the things that are good to do.

Re:GMO won't fix this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806307)

Not to mention, good nutrition lowers birth rates because parents don't have to get 7 children just to be fairly certain that at least a few of them will survive and be healthy.

Yes, it makes sense to you and me from the outside, though I don't think that's the way it works in real life. I think that if one is poor, the thinking may often be "I might not amount to much and my body may be a bit diseased, but I can do it like a boss and be the man for that moment."

Re:GMO won't fix this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806083)

And how do you want to solve the poverty problem? Magic? Sure, were all those people as rich as we, there wouldn't be a problem at all. And if we all start being nice to each other, we'd have worldpeace.

You can't fix poverty. You can tackle only smaller problems. And with each problem solved, the world gets a little better.

Currently about $100 million are spent per year to supply children in need with vitamin A supplements (go, read what Helen Keller International does). Golden Rice would cost practically nothing and will free up this money for other projects, e.g.:
http://www.hki.org/reducing-malnutrition/homestead-food-production/

Re:GMO won't fix this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806099)

You can artificially put vitamin A in (expensive, copyrighted) rice, but you won't fix the poverty that is the cause of all this. Once these people will (maybe, if they can afford it) have access to rice with vitamin A in it, the next deficiency will kill the "new" survivors. Fix their poverty, not their lack of vitamin A in their food. They will take care of the vitamin A without having to resort to GMO rice. Spending money on this sort of food modification won't pay for anyone but the copyright holders. It's not even about the "risks" of GMO, it's about the futility of trying to solve poverty with it.

In other words, you've boiled this down for what it truly is...another scheme to make a few people extremely wealthy while providing them corporate tax breaks for running a "charity" under the guise of helping people...just enough to make it to their next scheme.

Re:GMO won't fix this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806259)

I'm pretty sure the 80 year old dude in TFA is in it to buy another yacht. Oh wait, no, he's not. You, however, have an obvious progressive agenda.

Re:GMO won't fix this (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806323)

"Fix poverty". Which immediately leads to the question, *how* do you fix poverty? Don't you fix poverty by giving the poor more opportunity to grow and make what they need?

Balance (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805961)

"Excessive vitamin A consumption can lead to nausea, irritability, anorexia (reduced appetite), vomiting, blurry vision, headaches, hair loss, muscle and abdominal pain and weakness, drowsiness, and altered mental status" - Wikipedia

Hey watch where you're putting that stuff, it's like salt, you need a certain amount but too much is equally harmful. And the difference between too little and too much is a lot closer than with other vitamins like Vitamin C.

Re:Balance (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806033)

Invalid argument. The rice doesn't contain vitamin A, it contains beta-carotene. While vitamin A is harmful in higher dosages, beta-carotene isn't.

a solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44806011)

there are other sources of vitamin A, like pumpkins and carrots!

Evolution did not happen through monoculture (1, Interesting)

fonske (1224340) | 1 year,20 days | (#44806153)

Let's reduce the problem of dietary diversification to one problem of shortage of a precursor to vitamin A and the industry is winning the GMO debate already.
Moreover this debate takes monoculture for granted.
A good example of problems with monocultures is a crossover of Phytophtora infestans (blight) with Mexican Phytophtora since the 80's, wreaking havoc on (cloned) monocultures of potatoes.
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