Golden dream

Rice variety to fight vitamin A deficiency

Published: Sunday 15 May 2005

Will it deliver what it promis Researchers from the UK and the US have genetically engineered a new variety of 'golden rice' that they claim will help fight vitamin A deficiency, which affects millions of children, especially in the developing nations.

Called Syngenta Golden Rice, the new strain showed an increase in total carotenoids -- substances that change into vitamin A in the liver -- of up to 23-fold (up to 37 microgrammes per gramme of rice) compared to the earlier variety, according to a report in Nature Biotechnology.

The breakthrough was achieved by replacing a gene originally borrowed from daffodils with one from maize. The new strain will now be crossed with local varieties and planted in India and the Philippines on a trial basis.

But critics say the new strain is a mere ruse to increase the acceptability of genetically modified crops. It remains to be seen whether the carotenoids will be destroyed on cooking and how much will be absorbed on eating the rice, they point out.

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