Grains of Hope

David Paul Morris for TIME.

Geneticists Peter Beyer, left, and Ingo Potrykus are giving Asia new rice. But is it safe?

At first, the grains of rice that Ingo Potrykus sifted through his fingers did not seem at all special. But once their dark, crinkly husks were stripped away and the interiors polished to a glossy sheen, Potrykus could behold the seeds' golden secret. At their core, these grains were not the pearly white of ordinary rice but a very pale yellow—courtesy of beta-carotene, the nutrient that serves as a building block for vitamin A.

Potrykus was elated. For more than a decade he had dreamed of creating a golden rice that would improve the lives of millions of...

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