Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 3227..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
absorb beta-carotene, the human body requires adequate amounts of zinc, protein and fats-elements often lacking in the diets of poor people. Those with diarrhoea-this is common in developing countries-are also unable to obtain vitamin A from golden rice.
John Lupien, director of the Food and Nutrition Division, Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations-I do not know if he fits into the category of underqualified greens-said:
A single nutrient approach towards a nutrition-related public health problem is usually, with the exception of perhaps iodine or selenium deficiencies, neither feasible nor desirable.
Nutrition experts thus confirm what commonsense tells us: a balanced, diverse diet supplying a full range of foods and nutrients is the only sound way to promote health and prevent VAD and other nutritional deficiencies. According to Dr Samson Tsou of the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre, VAD is not a major problem in countries with vegetable consumption of more than 200 grams per day. A preschool child's daily requirement of vitamin A can be met with just two tablespoons of yellow sweet potatoes, half a cup of dark green leafy vegetables or two-thirds of a medium-sized mango. And unlike golden rice, these vegetables supply other micronutrients as well.
Dr Richard Horton, editor of the British science journal The Lancet-not an underqualified person, I would not have thought-said:
Seeking a technological food fix for world hunger may be...the most commercially malevolent wild goose chase of the new century.
The green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s replaced diverse cropping systems with monocultures of new wheat and rice varieties. These new hybrids required irrigation, fertilisers and herbicides to deliver increased yields. These herbicides killed off many green leafy vegetables that had been important sources of vitamin A. They also poisoned rice paddy waters, causing steep declines in fish and stream populations in areas such as Bangladesh, where integrated rice-fish farming is practised.
Monoculture in the fields predictably led to less diverse diets. In India, household consumption of vegetables has decreased 12 per cent over the past two decades. In Thailand, 80 per cent of caloric intake now comes from rice, up from less than 50 per cent before the green revolution. An impoverished diet that consists of little else but rice, golden or not, will never provide a solution to world hunger or malnutrition.
Even if golden rice is successfully developed, many question whether it is an efficient use of scarce public funds. An educational project in Bangladesh, begun in 1993 by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, has helped landless families develop home gardens with vitamin A-rich crops, such as beans and pumpkins. This successful program grew to involve at least three million people by 1998. A public education campaign in Thailand, which utilised radio, posters and street theatre, taught farmers the advantages of growing the ivy gourd, another good source of vitamin A.
A project in the Jiangsu province of China has helped spawn a huge increase in rice/aquaculture systems, which resulted in 10 to 15 per cent increases in rice yields and, more importantly, 750 kilograms of fish per hectare of rice paddy. The fish also helped