Golden Rice

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Golden Rice. [File photo]

Golden Rice (黄金大米) is a type of genetically modified (GM) rice developed by U.S. biotechnology company Syngenta. Its unique main function is to increase the body's absorption of Vitamin A. Because of its golden glow, this particular kind of rice is also known as “Golden Rice.”

Environmental group Greenpeace told the press on August 30, 2012, that an American research institute had published the results of a GM rice experiment on 24 Chinese children in Hunan Province, which aroused concerns both at home and abroad. The experiment altogether followed 72 healthy children, aged six to eight, and all were students from a primary school in Hengyang, Hunan.

The research aimed at checking the influence of Golden Rice on the human body's absorption of Vitamin A, according to Greenpeace. Researchers required the 24 children to lunch on 60 grams of Golden Rice every day for a total of 21 days, and monitored the content of Vitamin A in the children's' bodies. They came to the conclusion that Golden Rice was as effective as Vitamin A capsules.

In response to Greenpeace accusing Syngenta of conducting an experiment on 24 Chinese schoolchildren, the Hengyang municipal government stated on September 1, 2012, that only 68 students were participating in comparative experiments unrelated to GM rice or other GM foods; all food consumed by the students was purchased from a local market. Additionally, their parents had been notified twice by the school to sign permission slips before the experiments actually took place.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention published the phased investigation test results of GM rice on September 10, saying the institute for nutrition and food safety with the CDC did not approve of or participate in the research of Golden Rice.

Yin Shi'an -- researcher with the CDC, main Chinese partner of Professor Tang Guangwen (Tufts University), and third author of the paper on the presence of beta-carotene in Golden Rice -- has been suspended from his job by the CDC because his statements during the investigation proved to be inconsistent.

The CDC stated in its investigation report that the relevant paper had not been submitted to the medical ethics committee and the Ministry of Health for review according to regulations.

"The Ministry of Health will step up the investigation on Hunan GM rice and find out the truth as soon as possible, and inform the public of the findings," Deng Haihua, the ministry's spokesman, said on September 11, 2012.

According to Deng, the Ministry of Health established an expert panel on medical ethics in 2000 to counsel and review major issues involving medical ethics, including studies of GM organisms.

In 2007, the ministry issued a regulation on reviewing GM studies involving humans, in which it required medical institutes to establish a panel of medical ethics to review any such studies.

The Regulation on the Safety of Agricultural Genetically Modified Organisms stipulates that studies on agricultural GM organisms in China in joint-initiatives between domestic and foreign institutions, should first receive approval from the Ministry of Agriculture.

The CDC, the Hunan CDC branch and the Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences published the joint investigation report on Golden Rice on December 6, 2012, claiming that the tests were conducted at the Jiangkou Township Primary School in June 2008, in which 25 pupils were feed on 60 grams of Golden Rice at the noon of June 2. Each student will now receive 80,000 yuan in compensation from the local government, the Beijing News reported.

On May 13, 2014, environmental lobby group Greenpeace said Chinese people have been "experimented upon" over the past 10 years through unwittingly eating genetically modified rice.