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Golden Rice: To Combat Vitamin A Deficiency for Public Health

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    3rd Dec, 2019

Said to be answer to Vitamin A deficiency, yet to be planted on large scale. Bangladesh could be on the verge of becoming the first country to approve plantation of this variety.

Context

Said to be answer to Vitamin A deficiency, yet to be planted on large scale. Bangladesh could be on the verge of becoming the first country to approve plantation of this variety.

About

  • In the late 1990s, German scientists developed a genetically modified variety of rice called Golden Rice.
  • It was claimed to be able to fight Vitamin A deficiency, which is the leading cause of blindness among children and can also lead to death due to infectious diseases such as measles.
  • Bangladesh could be on the verge of becoming the first country to approve plantation of this variety.
  • In Bangladesh, over 21 per cent of the children have vitamin A deficiency.
  • The Golden Rice that is being reviewed in Bangladesh is developed by the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.
  • This rice variety will not be more expensive than the conventional variety.

Why the Golden colour?

  • Rice is naturally low in the pigment beta-carotene, which the body uses to make Vitamin A. Golden rice contains this, which is the reason for its golden colour.

Bio fortification of staple crops

  • Fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.
  • Bio fortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology.
  • Bio fortification differs from conventional fortification in that bio fortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during processing of the crops.

Examples of bio fortification projects include

  • Iron-bio fortification of rice, beans, sweet potato, cassava and legumes;
  • Zinc-bio fortification of wheat, rice, beans, sweet potato and maize;
  • Provitamin A carotenoid-bio fortification of sweet potato, maize and cassava; and
  • Amino acid and protein-bio fortification of sourghum and cassava.

Vitamin A and its deficiency

  • Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is good for healthy vision, skin, bones and other tissues in the body.
  • Vitamin A often works as an antioxidant, fighting cell damage, but it also has many other uses.
  • Through its role with cell growth and division, vitamin A has an important role in the normal formation and maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys and other vital organs.
  • Good sources are fortified milk, eggs, meat, and cheese, liver, halibut fish oil, cream and kidneys.
  • Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of childhood blindness in Southeast Asia.
  • Symptoms of a severe deficiency are night blindness, dry eyes, diarrhea and skin problems.
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