ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

30 January 2003


this was "developed through traditional breeding", so who needs the risks of genetic engineering?


Dream rice to curb malnutrition

Pallava Bagla
The Indian Express, January 30, 2003

New Delhi, January 29: Taking genetic samples from the traditional Indian variety of rice called Jalmagna in Ayodhya, Filipino scientists have developed a "dream rice" that they claim is an answer to malnutrition. The scientists working at the world-famous International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Manila, Philippines, have bred this new nutritionally fortified variety that contains over twice the normal amount of iron alongwith Vitamin A and zinc.

The additional nutrients make it suitable for eradicating poor people's diseases like anaemia and night blindness. Developed through traditional breeding procedures, concerns of bio-safety are also a non-issue. This modern paddy variety is now being grown by some farmers near IRRI.

Glenn Gregorio, a scientist with the institute, is currently in India discussing possibilities about making this "dream rice" popular here. According to him, this "high yielding, high iron, high Vitamin A, high zinc variety is especially needed in poor countries where malnutrition is rampant".

Worldwide about 3.7 billion people are known to suffer from iron deficiency, which is most widespread in children and lactating mothers. Normal varieties of rice which forms the staple diet of more than half of humanity is unfortunately a poor source of micro-nutrients [mostly as a result of 'green revolution' varieties]. Hence agriculture scientists have always dreamt of revolutionary ways of making rice a nutritionally better grain, which can have great impact on human health. This Filipino effort suitably supported by USAID and DANIDA hopes to bridge this vital gap.

Over 10,000 traditional varieties of rice stored in the IRRI gene bank were screened to look for the right characters and after working for more than 5 years, scientists came up with the right combination of a traditionally bred rice plant which they call IR-68114 in the laboratory and which yields about 4-5 tonnes of paddy per hectare.

In addition to having hereditary material of the Indian variety from eastern UP, this new plant also carries suitable genes from paddy plants grown in Indonesia, Philippines, and China. A trial carried out on 30 anaemic women in Philippines showed their health improved in less than three months, said Gregorio. Dr. R.K. Singh, regional representative of IRRI in India, says the seeds of "dream rice" are already available from scientists of the Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack.

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