Agri Business

‘Golden Rice’ now closer to reality

Rutam Vora Recently in Manila | Updated on May 22, 2019

The flip side of Golden Rice is that it loses nutrients after 3 months

International Rice Research Institute cultivates the grain fortified with Vitamin A

In what would be a major breakthrough in agri-food biotechnology, the Golden Rice is inching closer to reality .

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its partners, the Philippines Rice Research Institute and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, have successfully cultivated Golden Rice in a controlled environment on IRRI campus.

Safety checks

The safety evaluations have shown that Golden Rice is as safe and nutritious as conventional rice but comes with the added benefit of increased beta-carotene content in the grain, the Philippines-based IRPI claimed.

This nutrient, similar to what is found in orange-coloured fruits and vegetables, is converted to Vitamin A as needed by the body. This is aimed at covering a vast rice-eating population in the world with high prevalence of deficiencies. The Golden Rice project has taken about 18 years to reach at this stage.

Ajay Kohli, senior scientist and programme leader at IRRI, said, “Besides consumers, farmers will also find it is beneficial to grow this seed. But there should be a balance to make it affordable for consumers and we expect some government intervention here. The Golden Rice can be grown just the same way we grow normal rice. There is no change in cost of cultivation and the agronomy also doesn’t change. In fact, it reduces water use by up to 30 per cent without any yield loss.”

The Golden Rice was given positive food safety evaluations by three leading regulatory authorities-- Food Standards Australia New Zealand (in February 2018), Health Canada (in March 2018) and the US Food and Drug Administration (in May 2018). According to IRRI officials, the Golden Rice application is under review in Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Research has indicated that one cup of Golden Rice can provide up to 50 per cent of the daily requirement of an adult for vitamin A.

Quoting a global research, Russell Reinke, Programme Lead, Healthier Rice, IRRI, stated that in Bangladesh over 20 per cent of pre-school and school age kids are afflicted with Vitamin A deficiency.

Less shelf-life

However, scientists believed that there may require some advocacy in case of the storage of the rice.

“The only thing that may require some advocacy is that Golden Rice should not be stored for more than three months. It may lose its nutrients after that. Within a period of three months it is enough to provide required nutrients to make a difference to the public health. But beyond that it starts losing nutritional value,” said Kohli. The research has advanced this period from earlier one month to three months now.

The reporter was in the Philippines on the invitation of Crop Life Asia Farmers’ Exchange Programme.

Published on May 22, 2019

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