Thirteen years after Golden Rice was featured on the July 31 cover of Time magazine under the headline “This Rice Could Save a Million Kids a Year,” biotech’s golden child is back in the headlines. Just when public opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is at an all-time high, and the biotech and junk food industries are once again pouring millions of dollars into a campaign to defeat laws that would require labels on foods containing GMO ingredients.
Coincidence? Industry spokespeople say the suspiciously timed resurrection of Golden Rice isn’t a public relations stunt designed to convert GMO skeptics. But absent any new news on a crop that hasn’t gained traction in more than a decade, the move looks more like an act of desperation than a legitimate defense of biotechnology.
After all, in the real world, the genetic engineering that has taken over vast tracts of cropland, the kind that has led to the proliferation of crops that require drenching our soil and polluting our waterways with obscene amounts of toxic herbicides and pesticides, has little in common with the DNA tinkering that produced Golden Rice.
But the real issue is this. Golden Rice is no closer to saving the world’s kids than it was 13 years ago. Because then, as now, there is still no proof that it can. And better alternatives exist.