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[Editor’s note: Alexander J. Stein is an economist interested in agriculture, food, nutrition, health, technology, sustainability, economic development & poverty alleviation worldwide.]
These comments were written in response to an article by Tom Philpott in Mother Jones, in which he made (i) the eternal argument against Golden Rice that, purportedly, in poor populations’ diets there is not sufficient fat for the vitamin A (beta-carotene) from Golden Rice to be absorbed . . . And in which he suggested that (ii) current successes in the fight against vitamin A deficiency (VAD) would make Golden Rice superfluous anyway:
“Fairly balanced article (for Mother Jones), except for the eternal argument about the purported lack of sufficient dietary fat.
(1) Critics of Golden Rice often make the Marie-Antoinesque argument of “let them eat carrots” . . . but the fat content of most fruit & veggies is even lower than the fat content of rice. Hence these critics have to decide, either eating more fruit & veggies helps, and so can Golden Rice, or neither. . . .
(2) There IS sufficient fat in the diets of the target groups: Only 5 grams of fat per day have to be consumed in the food mix for beta-carotene to be properly absorbed. . . . .
Even in populations in Asia in which low fat intake was identified as a more general nutrition problem, e.g. the average fat intake of children aged 1-3 years was still 22 grams/day. . . .
. . . .
Regarding the successes in fighting VAD, if “vitamin A supplementation, dietary diversification, food fortification and promotion of optimal breastfeeding” have helped reduce VAD, great! However, that’s not necessarily an argument against Golden Rice:
(1) As soon as supplementation and fortification efforts are stopped, the prevalence of VAD is set to rebound. . . .
(2) Golden Rice promises to be much more cost-effective than supplementation or fortification. . . .