/ FnB News
September 1, 2009

A genetically modified variety of rice called the Golden Rice will hit the market by 2011. This rice is developed to produce a carotenoid called beta carotene which gives the rice an organgish-yellow hue, and hence its name. Moreover, the beta carotene becomes vitamin A when processed by the body, according to a report from Manila, Philippines. As per WHO statistics, four out of 10 children aged between six months and five years, and three out of 10 school children show symptoms of vitamin A deficiency.

Similarly, 50% lactating and pregnant women also suffer from problems associated with vitamin A deficiency. Since rice is a staple in many Indian states, vitamin A fortified Golden Rice will be a boon to children and nursing mothers. As per data available in the Philippines, daily consumption of three cups of cooked Golden Rice can meet the vitamin A requirement of a person. Moreover Golden Rice also has the nutritional properties that can arrest avoidable blindness in children.

Research on this rice variety has been going on for more than a decade. The Golden Rice technology is based on a simple principle. Rice plants accumulate beta carotene in their leaves but not in the grain. By the addition of two genes — phytoene synthase and phytoene desaturase – using modern technology, the beta carotene gets accumulated in the endosperm, which is the edible part of the grain. The technology involved in developing Golden Rice is free because its inventors have released all intellectual property rights to the public through the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board.

Golden Rice is expected to be released in the Philippines in 2011. Markets in India and Vietnam too are expected to get their version of Golden Rice during the same period.

The first Golden Rice was developed by Dr Ingo Potrykus and Dr Peter Beyer in 2000. Later, the duo teamed up with Syngenta, which produced Golden Rice with higher levels of beta carotene. Syngenta donated these materials to the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, which oversees development of Golden Rice in rice-producing countries, including India.

Golden Rice-1 was developed in 2003 and Golden Rice-2 in 2005. At present, the Philippine Rice Research Institute, popularly known as PhilRice, is developing a new Golden Rice variety that will be resistant to pests like tungro and bacterial blight.