In 2000, the research teams of Ingo Potrykus (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland) and Peter Beyer (University of Freiburg, Germany) published their ground-breaking proof-of-concept paper describing genetically modified rice with provitamin A enriched endosperm. The aim was to combat vitamin A deficiency, that causes a quarter of a million cases of blindness in Southeast Asian children and a million deaths globally due to malnutrition. Rice with increased provitamin A content could be an easy and cost-efficient solution to supplement diets, especially in countries where rice is a predominant staple food.
An improved version “Golden Rice 2” with further increased provitamin A content was developed by Syngenta scientists and published in 2005. It had potential to supply an important part of the human daily vitamin A need. Conditions were established where this rice could be distributed to smallholder farmers free of licensing fees. From the beginning, the project met fierce opposition from technology-critical NGOs that resulted in high legal hurdles and long delays of the authorization process. After more than two decades, Golden Rice now is now close to cultivation authorization in the Philippines and in Bangladesh following to successful field trials.
In 2018, first approvals as food were granted in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US. In 2019, it was approved for direct use as human food and animal feed or for processing in the Philippines.