Much like the ancient form of rice, the ancient form of corn (teosinte) is not eaten. Much like rice, maize has seen a number of changes over thousands of years to turn it into a crop: the kernels increased in size and number… the kernels lost their husk. Much like rice, beta carotene is not physiologically needed in the kernels of corn: hence the plant never produced it.
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But here is the difference: …maize turned out to have a very malleable genome. …Native Americans bred it into astonishing colors and sizes; the maize genome today is massive and has come a long way from the genome of the ancient, inedible teosinte.
In 1779, Europeans came across a yellow, sweet variety that had been bred by the Iroquois tribe. …an Iroquois farmer… had… discovered a yellow kernel plant somewhere out in the fields; which they then decided to favor and breed. This type of chance mutation could very well have turned up for rice, but the fact is, it didn’t.
…[C]orn and rice both had the potential to create beta carotene in their grain. Yellow corn was found art. Yellow rice, on the other hand, had to be intentionally sought and created.
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