Millions of people in Asia and Africa don't get enough of this vital nutrient, so this rice has become the symbol of an idea: that genetically engineered crops can be a tool to improve the lives of the poor.

It's a statement that rouses emotions and sets off fierce arguments. There's a raging, global debate about such crops.

But before we get to that debate, and the role that golden rice plays in it, let's travel back in time to golden rice's origins.

It began with a conversation in 1984.

The science of biotechnology was in its infancy at this point. There were no genetically engineered crops yet. Scientists were just figuring out how to find genes and move them between different organisms.

Some people at the Rockefeller Foundation thought that these techniques might be useful for giving farmers in poor countries a bigger harvest.

So they set up a meeting at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in the Philippines, to talk about this.

Gary Toenniessen, who was in charge of the foundation's biotechnology program at the time, says that a lot of people at this meeting were very skeptical about biotechnology. They were plant breeders, masters of the traditional way to improve crops.