How white is my rice?
Colour: Deterrent or selling argument?
Carrots were originally white or purple in Europe, yet nowadays we cannot conceive of a carrot not being orange.
Cassava is not a native African crop, yet today, 400 years after it was introduced from South America, the livelihoods of more than 500 million Africans depend on cassava. There are yellow, β-carotene-producing cultivars in South America. The HarvestPlus Program is trying to introduce the trait into local African varieties, hoping that these will be acceptable to people used to white varieties.
In some countries rice is coloured yellow by adding spices, like saffron or curcuma. We hope that the natural yellow to orange colour of Golden Rice will be acceptable to millions of people, especially after recognising its beneficial health effects.
We hope that in a near future farmers in VAD-affected regions will have the choice to harvest the "gold".
Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are
Eating preferences are markedly regional and it can be rather difficult to change longstanding traditions. For example, the colour and size of common beans in Latin America is indicative of the region where these are grown and eaten. Small black beans are preferred in Central America, while large beans of various colours are eaten in the Andean region. While nutrient content and taste are comparable, it wouldn't be easy to change people's preferences from one day to the other. But at the same time many novel fruits and other products are always entering our markets and being adopted by consumers. There is tradition but there is also curiosity. Growers will also adopt new crops, if they yield well in their farms, if income generated from them is at least as good as what he can expect at present, and if there is demand where he sells his products.
The capacity of Golden Rice to produce β-carotene in the rice endosperm is not restricted to a single variety, on the contrary, the trait can be easily transferred to any variety by simple breeding. In this way growers and consumers will be able to keep their locally preferred and best adapted varieties. The only difference between a preferred local variety and its Golden equivalent will be the colour. This is not expected to pose an unsurmountable obstacle. In some regions, where the white colour is very important, additional promotion will be required.
In many popular dishes, coloured spices, like saffron or curcuma, are added to rice, but will people who like to eat their rice shiny white be willing to switch over to healthier Golden Rice? We believe that knowledge of its virtues and unaltered sensory attributes will make Golden Riceacceptable to those who need it.