Biotech rice shows potential to improve vitamin A

November 19, 2015 11:22 am 

IRRI LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Nov. 19 — The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) announced today that the results of the first round of multi-location trials of Golden Rice showed that beta carotene was produced at consistently high levels in the grain, and that grain quality was comparable to the conventional variety.

IRRI continues its collaboration with national research agencies in the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh and other countries to develop Golden Rice as a potential new food-based approach to improve vitamin A status.

However, yields of candidate lines were not consistent across locations and seasons, prompting research direction toward assessing other versions of Golden Rice.

Surveys around the world have failed to identify any rice varieties that contain significant amounts of beta carotene, so conventional breeding programs could not be used to develop Golden Rice. Instead, Golden Rice was developed using genetic modification techniques, with genes from corn and a common soil microorganism that together produce beta carotene in the rice grain.

Screen house and confined field trials of Golden Rice are being conducted by IRRI and the Philippine Rice Research Institute, rigorously following all biosafety and other regulatory protocols. Similar activities are ongoing in Bangladesh using their local varieties, and biosafety data are being generated as required by regulatory agencies.

According to IRRI, Golden Rice will only be made available to farmers and consumers if it is successfully developed into rice varieties suitable for Asia, approved by national regulators, and shown to improve vitamin A status in community conditions. If Golden Rice is found to be safe and effective, it says, a sustainable delivery program will ensure that Golden Rice is acceptable and accessible to those most in need.

Filipinos are no strangers to biotechnology crops. From 2003 to 2013, farmers have planted biotech corn. The Philippines might also be the first country to commercialize Golden Rice.

Golden Rice is unique because it contains beta carotene, which gives it a golden color. Many fruits and vegetables that are commonly eaten – such as squash, papaya and carrots – also get their color from beta carotene.

The body converts beta carotene in Golden Rice to vitamin A as it is needed. According to research published in 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, daily consumption of a very modest amount of Golden Rice – about a cup (or around 150 grams uncooked weight) – could supply half of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin A for an adult.(PNA)

FPV/ZAT-PR/PJN

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