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Bowl of Hope, Bucket of Hype?

When a research team led by Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg in Germany announced last year that they had produced beta carotene, or provitamin A, in rice grains,1 the news created quite a stir.2 For one thing, getting "golden rice," as it was quickly dubbed (for its color, not its monetary value) required a biotech tour de force. Potrykus and Beyer inserted two genes from daffodil and one from a bacterium into ri

Barry Palevitz
When a research team led by Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg in Germany announced last year that they had produced beta carotene, or provitamin A, in rice grains,1 the news created quite a stir.2 For one thing, getting "golden rice," as it was quickly dubbed (for its color, not its monetary value) required a biotech tour de force. Potrykus and Beyer inserted two genes from daffodil and one from a bacterium into rice plants in a way that allowed them to function in the normally white, starchy endosperm. Scientists, industry, and the media hailed the achievement as an example of how biotech can help people other than western farmers--in this case, by saving the eyesight and lives of millions of children in developing countries who lack sufficient provitamin A in their diets. Potrykus even...

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