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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.


Golden rice; genetic engineering; genetically modified organism; GMO; vitamin A; micronutrients; malnutrition; developing world; food systems; sustainability; South Asia; bioethics

Topical Areas

Ethics, Policy issues, Regulatory issues, Social issues, Social justice issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Graduate



Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Food Science / Technology  |   Biotechnology  |   Botany / Plant Science  |   Nutrition  |   Agriculture  |   Public Health  |  

Date Posted


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