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All That Glitters May Not Be Gold

A Troublesome Case of Transgenic Rice


Gerald F. Combs, Jr
Division of Nutritional Sciences
Cornell University


In this decision case, a congressional staffer must weigh a number of competing concerns and issues, including popular reactions to genetically modified organisms, in deciding how to present information to her boss, an influential congressman drafting legislation to support agricultural research. The case explores the social and biological issues surrounding micronutrient malnutrition, including deficiencies of several vitamins and essential minerals, especially iron, iodine, and vitamin A, which affect at least one-third of the world’s population, primarily in developing nations. Developed for a graduate-level seminar on “Genomics, Agriculture, Food Systems and Development,” the case teaches about the issues surrounding genomic applications in agriculture and their implications to health, environmental stewardship, economic sustainability, and national development.

  • To learn about the prevalence and nature of micronutrient malnutrition in the developing world.
  • To examine the nutritional aspects of pro-vitamin A carotenoids in foods, the physiological functions of vitamin A, and the health consequences of chronic vitamin A deficiency.
  • To understand the "food systems" perspective on malnutrition.
  • To explore how the tools of molecular genetics are used to produce transgenic crops.
  • To learn about Golden Rice and the controversy surrounding it.
  • To gain a better understanding of the needs for sustainable solutions to problems of malnutrition.
Keywords: Golden rice; genetic engineering; genetically modified organism; GMO; vitamin A; micronutrients; malnutrition; developing world; food systems; sustainability; South Asia; bioethics
Topical Area: Ethics, Policy issues, Regulatory issues, Social issues, Social justice issues
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Graduate
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Dilemma/Decision
Language: English
Subject Headings: Food Science / Technology   Biotechnology   Botany / Plant Science   Nutrition   Agriculture   Public Health  
Date Posted: 10/05/01
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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