- Reaz Ahmad, Daily Star, April 26, 2011
Bangladesh is all set for developing further the world's first-ever vitamin A-rich rice. A genetically engineered variety, the Golden Rice will go through greenhouse and field tests before advancing into production phase.
And if everything goes well, Bangladesh, within 5 years, will be able to fight vitamin A deficiency in expecting mothers and children through the most-consumed food item. The deficiency causes blindness and child death in acute cases.
The country's most productive rice variety -- BRRI Dhan 29 -- engineered at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines with beta carotene-rich genes from corn-- was successfully field-tested at the IRRI in February.This is a big step towards developing Golden Rice, said scientists at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) at Joydebpur, who are involved in the process."This week we are applying for permission to import the beta carotene-rich BRRI Dhan-29 from the IRRI experiment field and make a greenhouse trial at BRRI prior to going for open field trial in Bangladesh," said Dr Alamgir Hossain, principal plant breeder at BRRI.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) global database on vitamin A deficiency, one in every five pre-school children in Bangladesh is vitamin A-deficient, and 23.7 percent of pregnant women are affected by vitamin A deficiency.
Alamgir Hossain told The Daily Star on Saturday that once released commercially, consumption of only 150 gram of Golden Rice a day will supply half of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A for an adult. This is expected to revolutionise fighting vitamin A-deficiency in the mostly rice-eating Asian countries where the poor have limited access to vitamin A sources other than rice.
BRRI Dhan-29 along with an IRRI variety IR-64 and a Filipino variety RC-28 have gone through the process in which these three were genetically engineered to have greater expressions of corn gene responsible for producing beta carotene.
The GE technology was first applied by Prof Ingo Potrykus, then at the Institute for Plant Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and Prof Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg, Germany. Their insertion of beta carotene-enriched gene from daffodil to rice caught world attention back in late '90s, and the rice became known as Golden Rice. After years of scientific research and experiments IRRI found it more rewarding to transfer the beta carotene gene to rice from corn than daffodil.
Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which on April 13 sanctioned a grant of over $10 million to IRRI to fund, develop and evaluate Golden Rice varieties for Bangladesh and the Philippines, expects that Golden Rice variety of BRRI Dhan-29 will be ready for regulatory approval by 2015.