There are many folks in the world with lousy food access. Many of them eat mostly rice. This means they don’t get a lot of what we consider essential nutrients especially if it is polished rice. At one time that also removed the B vitamins, but now we add them back in after polishing the rice. It also means you are low on IP6 or inositol hexaphospate that is reputed to help in preventing or healing cancer:
So eat that brown rice. It is good for you in many ways. (Not the least of which is that the lining of the intestine is ‘fed’ directly from fermentation of fiber and if you don’t have enough that’s a problem… and not just from constipation.)
A bright idea was hatched to use genetic modification to plant the Vitamin A gene into rice so as to prevent the Vit A deficiency related blindness seen in many poor folks, especially in Africa and Asia. This is called “Golden Rice” as it has a light gold yellow color.
Folks here know that I’m not a fan of GMOs for the simple reason that we do NOT know what we are doing, we just think we do. Genes move. It’s really that simple. In many cases folks think that the genes are fixed in placed, locked down, and not subject to moving. That just isn’t true. So those Roundup Resistance genes are already spreading to ‘related’ plants and there are a variety of weeds that are no longer bothered by Roundup.
Similarly those Bt Toxin genes in GMO corn are likely causing a variety of kinds of grief. From contributing to the demise of bees (a researcher in Europe found that bees exposed to GMO Bt pollen were then more prone to a parasite and had colony collapse) to spreading Bt Toxin everywhere in the environment pretty much guaranteeing that in a few decades we will have a huge number of Bt resistant bugs. That, then, destroys one of the few allowed biologic ‘pesticides’ for organic gardeners: a surface spray with actual Bacillus Th. that can later be washed off. Oh, and not to mention that you can’t wash the Bt Toxin out of your food as it is in EVERY cell of that food, and Bt Toxin is shown to be allergenic…
But, given all that, if any plant were to get my OK for GMO use, I’d lean toward this Golden Rice. At least until it isn’t needed for those folks who are at risk.
With that said, I’m going to propose another simple solution. Sweet Potatoes and curry.
Most folks with this dietary issue are in warm places. Sweet Potatoes grow well in warm places, and are often a staple food in those same poor tropical countries. My proposal would be to promote the sweet potato as a cheap way to get your Vit. A even in poor places.
has a nice table of Vit. A concentration in different foods. Top of the list (by gram – in a click box down that page) is liver, but it is unlikely that folks subsisting on rice will be eating animal products.
70564IU (1411% DV) per 100 grams
So that means that about 7 grams of liver per day would cover it. Or since this is fat soluble, a 100 gram portion would be enough for 2 weeks. Eat liver once a month, and only 200 grams at that, and the problem is gone.
Number three on the per gram list (and top of the main page list) is the Sweet Potato
19218IU (384% DV) per 100 grams
That makes it a 100 gram serving every third day (or about 1/4 of a medium sweet potato per day). Now maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but it seems to me that it would be a whole lot easier to get folks growing and distributing sweet potatoes in the areas with problems than to get approval for a GMO rice and get farmers all over to change what they grown and to get it distributed and sold as cheaply as regular rice. I really do think that just getting folks to understand that a small amount of sweet potato is all they need, and that it is relatively cheap, is an easier way to go. (And, for children and infants the amount is even less. A 20 lb child is going to be 1/10 the the amount a 200 lb man needs. So about one teaspoon…)
Now in between those two on the ‘by gram’ chart was a surprise for me. Hot Pepper. Not too surprising when you consider how red it is and that it is a dried product.
#2: Spices (Paprika, Cayenne, Chili Powder)
49254IU (985% DV) per 100 grams
985IU (20% DV) per teaspoon (2 grams)
Now I’m not about to go eating Cayenne Pepper by the 100 grams worth… but I can see a teaspoon in a pot of chili or curry. I mostly mention it as an example of how you can get a lot of Vit A in a deeply colored dried plant. Maybe that’s part of why folks started eating hot foods in the first place…
Oh, and honorable mention for the carrot and yellow squash. In places too cold to grow sweet potatoes, the carrot is dandy.
17033IU (341% DV) per 100 grams
7835IU (157% DV) per carrot (46 grams)
11155IU (223% DV) per 100 grams
That’s less than 1/4 cup per day for an adult for the squash.
So for a small child, that’s about 1/5 of a medium carrot cooked and mashed. Heck, you could likely mix it in with rice and not notice. Just cut a bit of the end of the adult’s carrot and everybody gets the needed dose from one little carrot. I note in passing that carrots sell for less per pound at Walmart than does rice. I know, not the same as in Bumfrick Africa… but still it’s a very cheap product.
Now, for anyone preparing for “after the fall”, you also know what to have growing in your garden or ready to plant as frozen seeds. Winter yellow or orange fleshed squash, carrots, peppers, and maybe sweet potatoes if you are in a place warm and wet enough to grow them.
The Modest Suggestion
It seems to me that a simple way to approach the problem of shortage of Vit A in poor places is to encourage the planting and eating of sweet potatoes (at least once / week). Maybe find some kind of “sweet potato curry” so some paprika can be added. Furthermore, folks who are all worked up about this problem can set up an organization to fund and distribute sweet potato plants to farmers and ship the products to the poor. I’m pretty sure that were I a dirt poor person with near starving kids and only rice to eat, I’d be more thankful for a free sweet potato a week than for being nagged into buying funny colored rice (that will undoubtedly be more expensive at the start).
I’d also suggest that perhaps some kind of dried sweet potato could be produced for use in off seasons and / or shipping more easily to remote places. Perhaps a kind of non-hot pepper can be found with Vit A levels similar to paprika and then putting 100 grams of it into a pot of rice would not be quite the challenge ;-)
So that’s my proposal. Simply push the understanding that a little bit of yellow / orange stuff a week is all you need and help make it available cheap. (Squash is also good at “11155IU (223% DV) per 100 grams” and anyone who has grown squash can attest to how hard it is not to have too many squash without even trying…)