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Addressing Malnutrition on a Global Scale with GM Rice

By February 5, 2013

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The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) reviewed the on-going development of several varieties of genetically modified (GM) rice in its quarterly Rice Today magazine. In contrast to many crop modifications that seek to increase harvest yields by introducing pesticide or pest resistant traits, most genetic engineering on rice has been undertaken to address nutritional deficiencies in countries where rice is a diet staple

The IRRI article notes that Golden Rice, a strain designed to fight blindness caused by vitamin-A deficiency which affects hundreds of thousands of children in the third world, is currently undergoing field trails in the Philippines after years of testing and approvals.

The original Golden Rice strain was developed in 1999 by adding two genes to the rice DNA so that the grains can produce beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. It is this nutrient that gives this rice variety its yellow color.  Golden Rice was the subject of some controversial trials this past year in China that were not properly approved.   The results of this study, though, did confirm that normal daily servings of the rice would provide sufficient vitamin A to prevent the deficiencies that produce blindness.

In addition to vitamin-fortified Golden Rice, other GM rice strains have been subsequently developed to grow faster by processing sunlight more efficiently, provide supplemental iron to help prevent anemia, and thrive better during droughts. Testing and improvement of these strains of the most common food source on the planet continues with the hope of addressing the nutritional needs of a growing world population .

You can read more about IRRI's GM rice program on their website.

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