By A Asha
Published: Monday 30 April 2001

The advocates of agricultural biotechnology maybe overselling the usefulness of the genetically modified 'golden rice' to fight malnutrition. The rice variety is produced by Syngenta, a private corporation based at Basel, Switzerland. Golden rice is genetically modified to contain provitamin A, the precursor to vitamin A. It is claimed by the company that it will augment the vitamin A levels in the consumer. Vitamin A is present in eggs, milk and some vegetables. But, like many other nutrients, it is a lipid-soluble substance that can only be absorbed by the body if consumed with sufficient fat or oil. The critics say that in the absence of a diet that contains fats, the body cannot absorb vitamin A and the widely vaunted health benefits can prove counterproductive. But some nutrition experts warn about the product's limitations, especially in developing nations, where dietary lipids are notoriously in short supply (Nature Vol 410, No 503).

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