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November 22nd, 2019 / Science Magazine, US

Soon. That has long been scientists’ answer when asked about the approval of golden rice, a genetically modified (GM) crop that could help prevent childhood blindness and deaths in the developing world. Ever since golden rice first made headlines nearly 20 years ago, it has been a flashpoint in debates over GM crops. Advocates touted it as an example of their potential benefit to humanity, while opponents of transgenic crops criticized it as a risky and unnecessary approach to improve health in the developing world.

Now, Bangladesh appears about to become the first country to approve golden rice for planting. “It is really important to say we got this over the line,” says Johnathan Napier, a plant biotechnologist at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, U.K., who was not involved in the crop’s development. He says approval would show that agricultural biotechnology can be successfully developed by publicly funded research centers for the public good. Still, environmental groups haven’t dropped their opposition—and the first harvest isn’t expected until at least 2021. And more research will be needed to show the extent of real-world benefits from golden rice. Read more …