Newswise — “Golden Rice” is probably the world’s most hotly debated genetically modified organism (GMO). It was intended to be a beta carotene-enriched crop to reduce Vitamin A deficiency (VAD), a health problem in very poor areas. But it has never been offered to farmers for planting.

A new study finds that most families at risk for VAD can’t grow Golden Rice themselves, and most commercial farmers won’t grow it either.

“Many families with Vitamin A deficient kids don’t even have rice land to plant it,” said Glenn Davis Stone, professor of sociocultural anthropology and environmental studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and co-author of a new paper in the journal Technology in Society.  “And those in the mountains won’t plant it because it has been bred into the lowland varieties of rice known as IR-64 and RSC-82.”

Writing in the Feb. 7 issue of The Conversation, Stone and his study co-author Dominic Glover, a rice researcher at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, suggest that backers of Golden Rice — and even some economists who have tried to project its health impacts — have made certain flawed assumptions about farmers’ willingness to plant the crop.

Stone, an internationally recognized expert on the human side of global agricultural trends, was an early advocate for keeping an open mind about ‘humanitarian’ GMO crops, such as Golden Rice. Since 2013, he has directed a major Templeton Foundation-funded research project on rice in the Philippines.