|GM Golden Rice in 3 years - or non-GM now! (28/9/2006)|
1."Golden rice in 3 years"
Bangladesh's Agriculture Minister MK Anwar says Golden Rice, a genetically modified crop "enriched" to provide Vitamin-A, is expected to be released in the country within the next two or three years. (item 1)
The case for "Golden Rice" has always looked weak. Far more Vitamin A could be obtained from small quantities of leafy vegetables.
But the case for it, as more than a biotech industry PR tool, was further weakened with the announcement *3 years ago* that scientists working at the International Rice Research Institute had successfully bred by conventional means a new nutritionally fortified variety that contains over twice the normal amount of iron along with Vitamin A and zinc. (item 2)
Curious that while Golden Rice has been endlessly hyped, so little has been heard about this non-GM reseach to provide biofortification without any of the unassessed risks of genetic modification.
1.Golden rice in 3 yrs: MK Anwar
Agriculture Minister MK Anwar yesterday said the Golden Rice, a genetically modified crop enriched by Vitamin-A, is expected to be released in the country within the next two or three years.
"The Bangladesh Rich Research Institute (BRRI) is conducting a research on this genetically modified (GM) crop, which would hopefully be released within the next two or three years," he said at the Jatiya Sangsad while replying to two supplementary questions.
On the first supplementary question from treasury bench member GM Fazlul Hoque, he said although there is a controversy and debate worldwide on the GM crop, "we hope that the golden rice would help reduce vitamin-A deficiency of the people."
Responding to another supplementary question from Awami League lawmaker Farruk Khan, the agriculture minister said after successful release of the Golden Rice, steps would be undertaken to development iron and zinc enriched rice varieties in the country.
MK Anwar, however, told the house that all types of local rice varieties are being preserved in the BRRI laboratory.
2.Dream rice to curb malnutrition
NEW DELHI, JANUARY 29: Taking genetic samples from the traditional Indian variety of rice called Jalmagna in Ayodhya, Filipino scientists have developed a "dream rice" that they claim is an answer to malnutrition. The scientists working at the world-famous International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Manila, Philippines, have bred this new nutritionally fortified variety that contains over twice the normal amount of iron along with Vitamin A and zinc.
The additional nutrients make it suitable for eradicating poor peoples diseases like anaemia and night blindness. Developed through traditional breeding procedures, concerns of bio-safety are also a non-issue. This modern paddy variety is now being grown by some farmers in a plant breeder at the IRRI.
Glenn Gregorio, a scientist with the institute, is currently in India discussing possibilities about making this "dream rice" popular here. According to him, this "high yielding, high iron, high Vitamin A, high zinc variety is especially needed in poor countries where malnutrition is rampant".
Worldwide about 3.7 billion people are known to suffer from iron deficiency, which is most widespread in children and lactating mothers. Normal varieties of rice which forms the staple diet of more than half of humanity is unfortunately a poor source of micro-nutrients. Hence agriculture scientists have always dreamt of revolutionary ways of making rice a nutritionally better grain, which can have great impact on human health. This Filipino effort suitably supported by USAID and DANIDA hopes to bridge this vital gap.
Over 10,000 traditional varieties of rice stored in the IRRI gene bank were screened to look for the right characters and after working for more than 5 years, scientists came up with the right combination of a traditionally bred rice plant which they call IR-68114 in the laboratory and which yields about 4-5 tonnes of paddy per hectare.
In addition to having hereditary material of the Indian variety from eastern UP, this new plant also carries suitable genes from paddy plants grown in Indonesia, Philippines, and China. A trial carried out on 30 anaemic women in Philippines showed their health improved in less than three months, said Gregorio. Dr. R.K. Singh, regional representative of IRRI in India, says the seeds of "dream rice" are already available from scientists of the Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack.