BIOTECH: Micronutrient rice

Brian D Williams (
Mon, 23 Aug 1999 08:31:21 -0700 (PDT)

Good news from this week's SW BULLETIN:

Vitamin A deficiency affects approximately 400 million people worldwide, leaving them vulnerable to infections and blindness. Iron deficiency, which is the primary micronutritional shortage, and which can be made worse by a diet of ordinary rice, afflicts approximately 3.7 billion people, particularly women, producing anemia and susceptibility to complications during childbirth. Earlier this month, at the 16th International Botanical Congress, I. Potrykus et al (CH) reported the genetic engineering of rice to contain beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, and in addition a nutritive dose of iron. The achievement is evidently causing excitement in the agricultural research community, since this is the first type of rice genetically engineered for nutritional enhancement. Since the research was not industryfunded, it is expected that the farmers who need micronutrientrich rice may get it free of charge. Because the potential benefits are great and the potential environmental risks small, there is some expectation that the new rice strain may draw less opposition from critics of genetically engineered foods than other modified crop plants now on the market. (SCI)


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