(NaturalNews) As the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its many global partners continue to push for the approval and commercial release of genetically-modified (GM) "Golden Rice," a controversial "frankenfood" that contains added vitamin A, opponents say the answers to vitamin A deficiency in the Third World are already right in front of us: breastfeeding and agricultural biodiversity.
In a recent piece for Rappler, Velvet Escario Roxas from the Philippines-based, non-governmental organization (NGO) ARUGAAN, which advocates for breastfeeding, explains how food diversity and breastfeeding are already solving nutritional deficiencies in Southeast Asia. Between natural breast milk and native foods naturally rich in vitamin A, which includes things like mangoes and papayas, there is no need to engineer rice with artificial nutrients, she says.
And she should know, since she has two young children of her own and works with many others on a regular basis. Younger children between six and 12 months of age, she explains, naturally obtain more than half of their nutritional needs from their mothers' breast milk. And children in their second year of life obtain up to one-third of their nutritional needs from breast milk.
"Breast milk is food, nutrition, medicine, economics, ecology and love," writes Roxas. "In our experience at ARUGAAN ... children breastfed by biological or surrogate mothers visibly benefit in terms of health and well-being, both in the short- and long-term."
Many native crops in Southeast Asia contain naturally high levels of vitamin A and other nutrients
Proponents of GM Golden Rice would have us all believe that people everywhere throughout Southeast Asia, the target market, are starving with no solutions for improving their health. But as Roxas explains, the region's natural biodiversity already provides a steady supply of vitamin A and many other vital nutrients from real foods that grow seasonally throughout the year.
"Breast milk can be supplemented as the child develops with nutritious fruits rich in beta-carotene (the precursor of vitamin A) like mangoes, papaya, sweet camote, or moringa leaves, indigenous to the Philippines, which are four times richer in beta-carotene than carrots," she writes. "Ironically, all these crops are part of the rich and biologically diverse agricultural landscape in the Philippines."
Roxas says her organization prepares these and other foods for local children all throughout the year, adhering to the philosophy that nature provides what is needed with each season. When the mangoes ripen in April, for instance, ARUGAAN uses them religiously. The same is true for avocados in June and citrus in the fall.
Golden rice continues to prove useless in trials
It is also a fact that, despite what you may be hearing in the mainstream media, golden rice is not even viable at this point in time. Opponents of the transgenic crop are often blamed for impeding its use, but a workable iteration of golden rice has yet to even be developed, despite repeated attempts by genetic butchers to produce a variety that works.
IRRI has also admitted publicly that it is not sure whether golden rice will even provide any benefits for those that consume it. As you may already know, vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it requires fat in order to properly assimilate. Impoverished folks supposedly lacking this essential vitamin in an area of the world, that already grows plenty of vitamin A-rich food crops natively, will hardly have access to the necessary co-factors required to derive benefits from vitamin A-enriched Golden Rice.
"It has not yet been determined whether daily consumption of Golden Rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient," IRRI is quoted as saying by GMWatch.org.