Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Vitamin A enriched rice in five years to defeat deficiency

SALEEM SAMAD

AGRICULTURE SCIENTISTS in Bangladesh have plans to develop genetically-engineered Vitamin-A enriched rice variety in five years.

A genetically modified variety, the Golden Rice will go through greenhouse and field tests before advancing into production phase, like cultivation and harvest.

Unlike other poor countries, pregnant women and school children in Bangladesh suffer from preventable diseases which could be conquered by Vitamin-A supplements through most consumed food item.

Vitamin-A deficiency is a major cause of preventable blindness in children in Bangladesh. It also impairs growth, lowers resistance to infections and increases the risk of dying. In pregnant and postpartum women, Vitamin-A deficiency can have serious consequences for the health and survival of women and for the Vitamin-A status of their children.

In another front, government is expecting to fortify 300,000 metric tons of edible oil sold in retail markets. The initiative will ensure to reach remote villages, where Vitamin-A capsules is difficult to distribute.

"This week we are applying for permission to import the beta carotene-rich BRRI Dhan-29 from the IRRI experiment field and make a greenhouse trial at BRRI prior to going for open field trial in Bangladesh," Dr Alamgir Hossain, principal plant breeder at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) told independent English newspaper Daily Star.

Dr Hossain told The Daily Star on Saturday that once released commercially, consumption of only 150 gram of Golden Rice a day will supply half of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A for an adult. This is expected to revolutionize fighting Vitamin-A deficiency in the mostly rice-eating Asian countries where the poor have limited access to vitamin A sources other than rice.

Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on April 13 provided a grant of over $10 million to IRRI to develop and evaluate Golden Rice varieties for Bangladesh and the Philippines. It is expected that the Golden Rice variety of BRRI Dhan-29 will be ready for regulatory approval by 2015.

HKI Vice President and Regional Director for Asia-Pacific Nancy Haselow says, “The most vulnerable children and women in hard-to-reach areas are often missed by existing interventions that can improve Vitamin A status, including Vitamin A supplementation, food fortification, dietary diversification, and promotion of optimal breast-feeding.” [ENDS]

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

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