Intro to Pesticide Toxicology and Policy








Intro to Pesticide Toxicology and Policy

Oral and Written Project Topics

Golden Rice















The Golden rice project is one of rice production which consists of rice that has been genetically modified. The modifications allow for the accumulated storage of (beta-carotene) β-carotene in the rice’s endosperm, that is, the edible part of the grain. The modifications make the rice acquire a golden color which is different from the normal white rice that lacks carotenoids. Consumption of golden rice results in either its conversion into vitamin A by the body or it is stored in the fatty tissues of the body.

Like all carotenoids, β-carotene is also a naturally occurring plant pigment; it is mainly found in colored fruits such as green vegetables and carrots. All animals, man included synthesis vitamin A which is acquired from carotene they consume in their diet. Plants do not contain vitamin A. However, vitamin A is a precursor of plants; β-carotene is also referred to as provitamin A. As a result meat products from animals contains vitamin A. People who practice poor diets are at a high risk having deficient of vitamin A, this may result in life-threatening illnesses.

Rice grains are an ideal carrier of β-carotene, the carotenoid is readily broken down by the digestive system and the natural membranes that are fatty in nature. Natural lipids are contained in the grain are sufficient to facilitate the absorption process of β-carotene even in diets that contain a small amount of oil or no oils. Oil is the main facilitator for the absorption of carotenoids. For a vast majority of people in the world, rice is not only a source of energy but also the main sources of lipids, despite the low quantity of fat which is present in the grains.




The Issue

Like all other genetically modified foods, Golden rice has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. However, the major issues relating to the Golden rice are due to the medical conditions it may cause to people who consume it. Some people can be allergic to the rice. The additional nutrients, be it proteins, minerals or vitamins, modify the nature of the food and where the minerals, proteins and vitamins are obtained from has an impact of determining how safe the rice is (Wesseler & Zilberman, 2014). Some people are allergic to some animals or plants, this could be the source of the vitamins, minerals and proteins. As a result, Golden rice may result in these risk causing allergic reactions.

Golden rice may in some cases result in complications with medications which reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics (Tran & Sanan-Mishra, 2015). As it is the case with almost all genetically engineered foods, the foods have an antibiotic feature that makes them insect resistance, virus resistance and also resistance to other pathogens. The antibiotic feature can also interfere with the human resistance system to antibiotics.

Golden rice can contaminate other non-genetically engineered rice through the unplanned mixing of seeds during the harvest, distribution and transport processes. Despite the fact that rice is self-pollinated, chances of cross-pollination still have a possibility of taking place which provides a pathway for contamination of other rice (Gartland, Bruschi, Dundar, Gahan, Magni & Akbarova, 2013). There is also the risk of the Golden rice genes spreading out to interfere with other vegetation including the weeds; this may cause the evolution of normal weeds to super weeds which would be almost impossible to get rid of normal herbicides are used.

In areas such as the Philippines where the crop is being tested, there are concerns about the use of Golden rice as a solution in combating vitamin A deficiency. If continued studies on the rice indicate unexpected effects to the community where the rice is a staple food, the communities may have their nutrition and food security at risk as a result of contamination and the harsh truth is that is almost impossible to clean up and recall the crops (De Moura, Moursi, Angel, Angeles-Agdeppa, Atmarita, Gironella,… & Carriquiry, 2016). Some people strongly believe that Golden rice is not something that was intended to occur in nature. Therefore, it may cause adverse effects to both nature and those who consume it.

Other possible and plausible explanations for or sides to the issue than what’s on the surface

A lot of funds and times have been invested in the Golden rice project. The project has been in place for over twenty years (Moghissi, Pei & Liu, 2016). The team of competent scientist behind the project believe that the benefits of rice outweigh the negatives as a result of the rice safe for the environment and consumption. For the scientists, Golden rice is the ultimate solution to malnutrition to countries all over the world.

Genetically engineered foods have in most instances been praised for their positive health benefits on people. Some studies indicate that the altered foods including Golden rice can help improve the health of the senior citizens hence increase their life span (Tang, Hu, Yin, Wang, Dallal, Grusak & Russell, 2012). Also, the modified foods can help prevent untimely deaths which are as a result of common medical conditions and poor health. There are claims that Golden rice can help prevent blindness. In general, the rice is expected to have a positive impact on the lives of the people and also help the economy of the involved countries to reduce considerable amount funds on the annual budget.

The rice yields higher when compared to other non-modified rice. Also, along with vitamin A, further developments on the rice will allow the rice to offer additional proteins and minerals. In future, Golden rice might offer vitamin C, iron, zinc and good quality quantities of proteins (Brar, Jain & Jain, 2015). The addition nutrients are predicted to be made available in the near future in any rice. Other than dealing with malnutrition, Golden rice helps children grow strong; this will help in improving the children’s cognitive development and also their physical bodies.

The evidence supporting and refuting each side of the controversy

The scientific proof provided to indicate that Golden rice may lead to resistant in antibiotics is the facts that there are over  70 patent claims on the genes, this includes gene constructs and DNA sequences that are used in the making of the rice (Jacchia, Nardini, Bassani, Savini, Shim, Trijatmiko… & Mazzara, 2015). For this reason, a lot of people have raised concerns on whether the absurdity of offering Golden rice as a cure of for vitamin A deficiency, their claims discourage the rice by insisting that there are many other and cheaper alternatives sources of vitamin A such as the unpolished rice and green vegetables. The alternatives are also rich in other minerals and vitamins besides the expected vitamin A.

The proof to illustrate the health benefits of the Golden rice is because enough intake of vitamin A improves the health of the consumer since vitamin A help in strengthen the body’s defence system. The genetic engineering carried out on Golden rice allows it to stores high quantities of vitamin A. In addition, there are improved yields from the rice as it is modified to adapt to harsh climatic conditions (Bongoni, Bongoni, Basu & Basu, 2016). Also, it has better resistance to pests and other rice diseases. The modifications make the rice more yield more per plant which further increases its yields.



Are scientific studies on both sides accurate, well-designed, and interpreted reasonably?

In general, the opposition to genetically modified crops lacks scientific support. The largest field trial of transgenic crop projects consists of a hundred and eighty million productive farming lands: this corresponds to 13% of all the agriculturally productive land in the world (Schenkelaars & Wesseler, 2016). There are no recorded adverse effects on both humans and animals and even the environment where these crops are grown and consumed. However, studies from various parts of the world indicate that pesticide use has been on the decline. Genetically modified crops have helped reduced pesticide use by almost 90% since the introduction of the Bt cotton which is also genetically modified.

Experiments conducted by scientists at Tuft University in Boston and Peter Beyer from the University of Freiburg in Germany indicate that the rice protects the consumer from vitamin A deficiency. All over the world, lack of beta-carotene results in hundreds of deaths in the developing world each year. Deficiency of provitamin A especially in children makes them suffer from weaknesses of the immune system or may result in blindness. Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that approximately 250 million children of pre-school going age lack enough vitamin A supply in their diets (Wesseler & Zilberman, 2014). Among these children, between 250,000 to 500,000 lose their sight per year. From this information, it is clear that the Golden rice can offer a solution to these problems.

Do both sides have equal weight of evidence?

The two sides of the Golden rice topic to do not have equal evidence weights, the benefits of the rice are underrated while the resulting disadvantage of the rice risk appears to have been exaggerated (Lou, 2015).  Though there is no clear proof that Golden rice cause problems such as resistance to antibiotics, the majority of the people are very cautious with the rice. However, this is expected since if the projected negativities of Golden rice and other GMO crops were true, then the results would be fatal.

On the other hand, they is need to come up with plants that are rich in vitamin A to help deal with illnesses and other complications which are related to the lack of vitamin A; this is especially in the third world countries (Whitty, Jones, Tollervey & Wheeler, 2013). However, much weight regarding the Golden rice is placed on its disadvantages which blind the society from seeing the benefits that can be achieved as a result of growing the rice. Excessive concentration on the negatives rather than the positive part of the project may lead to the total abandonment of the project even though it can still be improved to make it widely acceptable by the majority of the people.

What sources do each side draw from to support their claims?

The main claims on Golden rice by those who oppose are in support of allergen part of the rice; this is a type of antigen that triggers vigorous and abnormal response of the immune system to fight off substances that are perceived as harmful by the body. However, some of these substances may actually pose no risk to the body. Some of the researchers have carried intensive research on the topic of GM crops especially the Golden rice (Alberts, Beachy, Baulcombe, Blobel, Datta, Fedoroff,… & Sharp, 2015). The researchers outline multiples ways through which people develop allergies as a result of consuming genetically engineered foods. The main method is through transgene materials which contain inherent allergic properties. Some of the transgene materials that may be present in Golden rice are transferred to the human body through a change in the gene expression. Changes in gene expression, in turn, alter the storage tissue in parts of a plant. The amount of the transgenic material contained in a plant is the determinant of the allergic reaction in a population.

The main sources of information in support of Golden rice are as a result of the health benefits attained through having a vitamin A rich diet. Golden rice is a rich source of vitamin A.

A viable or ‘safer’ alternative(s) to the current situation

It is true that blindness is caused by micronutrient deficiency; this type of blindness can be prevented through the distribution of vitamin A capsules or through improving one’s diet. An alternative to cater for the vitamin A deficiency (VAD) has been through the proposed supply of oral doses that are high in vitamin A in a solution to pre-school going children (Gayen, Sarkar, Datta, & Datta, 2015). However, such solutions can only reach a fraction of the children in need, and in most cases, the program will not always be ongoing. There are also other additional costs incurred for training the medical staff to administer the doses, poor infrastructure in the affected areas may cause this cost to go higher. For example, the annual costs incurred range at approximately two million dollars for countries whose size is almost as that of Nepal or Ghana.

Another suitable alternative is the consumption of unmilled brown rice. There exists considerable amounts of natural oils on the outer layer of the rice grain; this is the aleurone and the bran, these are rich in important vitamins required by the body such as vitamin B (Puri, Dhillon & Sodhi, 2015). However, rice is generally consumed with the outer layers removed, that is in its milled form. Oils present in the outer layers goes through a process of oxidation making the grain rancid, the process takes place at a much faster rate in areas that experience sub-tropical and tropical climatic conditions. The main reason behind milling is because milling improves the long-term storage duration of the rice without affecting the taste of the rice.

The most efficient long-term solution to these problems is through solving problems such as poor, infrastructure, poverty, malnutrition and lack of technology in the affected countries. All these play a key role in eliminating VAD. However, the solutions to these problems seem to be out of reach. Golden rice together with other efficient approaches may provide a much simpler, cheaper and highly effective solution to some of these major health problems.

The public’s opinion and its major source

Public opinion refers to the representation of the will and consciousness of the public. Public opinions obtained from the Political Ecology of GMOs indicate that peoples’ opinion regarding Golden rice is based on to two extreme ends; those that support it and those that are against it (Carroll, 2016). People that are in support of the rice strongly believe that it is a new method that will help increase food production.

People who are against the rice believe that there exists too many unknown consequences which will result due to wide use of the new method; the people base their reasoning on the “look before you leap” philosophy. The two stereotypes can be linked to two influential groups that are in control of determining the kind of information that will be made available to the public.

Scientific community’s opinion

Being a Science project, the Golden rice has received enormous support from the scientific community. To the scientists, the rice is viewed as one of the greatest breakthroughs in the science world to help address the issue of food security and also as a major source of vitamin A (Wang, 2015). The project was motivated by humanistic values and to the human welfare. Scientists strongly insist that continued and ongoing developments in the plant genetics enable it to present itself to the world as a strong candidate for the solution to some of the preventable ailments affecting the world.

The dispersion of Golden rice seed to some the Indian farmers are perceived as one of the potential solutions to help deal with vitamin A deficiency. Through the project, scientist hope that the rice produced in India will no longer have the same challenges as vitamin A supplements which scientists believe do not provide a complete solution regarding vitamin A related complications. In addition, through Golden rice, the scientific community hopes to get rid of certain types of cancers that can be linked to vitamin A supplementations.

What evidence is most portrayed by the media?

Like public opinion, the information that is transmitted through media is highly dictated by influential stereotypical groups that are either highly in support or highly against the Golden rice project. A good example of media in support of the Golden rice is the program of “Showing the dark side of anti GM campaigners” which is a show led by Dr Patrick Moore, the co-founder and leader of the Greenpeace movement (Lee & Krimsky, 2016). The aim of the movement is to end active blocking of the Golden rice by environmental organizations.

An example of media against Golden rice can be indicated through platforms such as “Golden Rice is Not So Golden”. This mainly focuses on the negative sides of the rice with claims that the rice is nowhere close to solving public health and societal problems as a result of micronutrient deficiencies (Reynolds & Martirosyan, 2016). Golden rice is portrayed as a broken promise from prickly scientists who play out in mainstream media with some regularity.

Is/was media coverage biased?

The information provided by mass media is in most cases biased. Biased reports shown by the media are clear indicators of the insufficient and inadequate studies regarding Golden rice, this results in a disservice to the people whose right to know the truth is taken away from them.

On 17 January 2016, CBS this Morning did a story on GMOs, “Food fight over GMOs” which was published on the same day (Sperber, Art & Chelsea, 2015). From the report it was clear that the report lacked sufficient research; the reporting was in favor of GMOs. However, not enough work was done to prove this. The report started with the reporter asking a Hawaii farmer about genetically modified papayas. The farmer was asked by the reporter if the papaya was safe and the farmer assured him that they were indeed safe because the farmer and his family had been consuming them for 20 years. The reporter the used that as proof and immediately came to the conclusion were safe. The reporter did not offer anything from the researcher to counter the assertion made by the farmer.

Has media coverage of the issue changed over time?

It is clear that genetically modified organisms, Golden rice included, have a bad reputation all over the world. For this reason, the media has been on the frontline to push away the introduction of genetically engineered crops into the agriculture sector without adequate consideration being placed in the environmental and health risks. The media have in the past been very active in charging its opponents blowing potential hazards associated with the crops as a way of manipulating the public opinion against the new technology (Ronald, 2014). During this time, the media and the developing scientists have been accusing the public of their lack of understanding. It is not rare to hear statements such as “Acceptance by the public will improve as a soon as start benefitting directly” or “The media takes the entire fault for poor coverage on the issue.”

Over the years, comprehensive works conducted on the topic of Golden rice has helped provide both the media group and the public with information that has helped change peoples’ perception of this technology (Yang, Xu & Rodriguez, 2014). The media does not only focus its attention on the only the disadvantages of the technology. Both the pros and cons the technology is evaluated critically which not only helps the public understand it but also helps encourage the acceptance of the technology.

Role of bias (personal or media); misperceptions of risk, toxicology, pesticides, science; and/or flawed studies play in the issue

When dealing with Golden rice, bias comes from two sides, that is, the overestimation risks of the rice by the media. From the scientists who developed the rice, the bias is placed on the benefits of the rice to make it accepted by the community (Wailes, Dixon, Nayga & Zheng, 2014). However, bias placed by the media houses have for a long time overpowered the bias coming from the scientists. As a result, Golden rise and other topics relating to GMOs have been welcomed with strong opposition.

As information on Golden rise continues made more available to the public, the bias tends to shift to the point of level grounds where the public gets to equip themselves with the information that is important to them (Jin, Wailes, Dixon, Nayga Jr & Zheng, 2014). Both the bias from the media and the scientists neutralize each other to give valid information that the public can assess, accept or reject without being unfairly compelled by one of the sides.

What role have activist groups and/or activist scientists played?

Activist groups effort to agree and disagree with the introduction of Golden rice seem to have been equal and therefore activists played no significant role in delaying the introduction of the Golden rise. Regular activist and activist groups were against the introduction of the rice due to its uncertain consequences (Delwaide, Nalley, Dixon, Danforth, Nayga Jr, Van Loo, & Verbeke, 2015). However, the activists from scientific groups had a strong base for the acceptance of the rice since vitamin A deficiencies blinds and kill hundreds of thousands of children every year all over the world. Genetically modified rice offered one of the most promising solutions to this problem. In addition, rice is consumed by half the people leaving in the world every day, to come up with such as solution is not a simple task. Despite the hard work put in place to come with this solution, many critics of the Golden rice is eagerly waiting to point out and campaign against any weaknesses that might present themselves as a result of the rice.

Policy changes implemented or are being pushed for

Currently there are no policies that have been put in places regarding Golden rice. However, to help move forward, it is clear that the rice must comply with the standards of application of soil and plant sciences to crop production and land management. For Golden rice to accomplish its nutritional goals and gain acceptance by the consumers, there is need for the Golden rice farming countries to come with strategic decisions to help navigate situations that deal with the promotion, implementation and adoption of the rice.

The decision is to address matters regarding desirable β-carotene quantities, desirable agronomic characteristics, target populations and methods to be used in the promotion and distribution of the rice (Kimura, 2013). All of these choices would be best informed if the agriculture and health policy makers can all agree on the potential benefits and need for technology. This will only take place if Non-governmental organizations who work with developing countries embrace the idea. From this approach, bio-fortification (the process through which the nutritional contents of the edible portions of plant foods are increased to levels that exceed the average content) is relatively challenging. Therefore, future investments need to be highly driven by policy dialogue.

The Golden rice provides a good platform for the guidance on other bio-fortification efforts. The first platform allows for any bio-fortification of staple crops to be genetically engineered; this method is expected to encounter great political resistance as well as other challenges regarding delivery and safety assessments other than the expected genetic modification approach. The second is that any bio-fortification efforts will need guidance and support from Non-Governmental Organizations and National Agricultural Research Systems within the countries whose population is affected deficiency, this helps to design and target appropriately.


The introduction of the Golden rice has various pros and cons. The media and other stereotypical influential groups play a major role in determining the information that gets to the normal citizens. Some of the major information concerning Golden rice that makes people question it and as a result rejecting it is the fact that most people strongly claim that, not only Golden rice, but also other genetically engineered crops were never meant to occur in nature in the first place. As a result, the introduction of the Golden rice may result in hazardous consequences that will affect both other plants and animals including humans. Though there exist no solid proof, genetically engineered organism can be linked to various ailments, there are still claims that associate the two; this because, to creating genetically modified organism requires making alterations in their genetic makeup.

Most of the information on genetically modified organism is subject to bias which makes people accept or reject the technology without clearly evaluating the topic. Some of the genetically engineered crops, for example, Golden rice, holds solutions to some of the biggest problems affecting the world such as illnesses caused by lack of enough vitamin A; this include weaknesses of the body’s defence system and development of blindness.

Before accepting a concept, it is necessary to clearly looks at its pros and cons. All crops have their pros and cons. However, if the pros are greater than the cons, then the subject matter should go through further research to determine if it should be accepted by the community. The benefits as a result of Golden rice by far outweigh the disadvantages, for this reason, Golden rice should be considered as one of the top solutions to help combat blindness in young children and other disease caused by lack of vitamin A.























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