A genetically improved rice variety fortified with vitamin A will most likely be available commercially by 2011 and would reduce the chronic deficiency suffered by millions of children and pregnant women.
This optimistic projection was made yesterday by experts from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) who have been working double time to secure approval for Golden Rice, which is touted as the quickest solution to vitamin A and iron deficiency suffered by at least 2 billion people worldwide.
Production of stable lines for Golden Rice and fingerprinting are being undertaken currently, according to PhilRice, while tests on the availability, safety and environmental risks of the rice variety will be completed by next year.
After these, field trials on Golden Rice will be undertaken by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) before approval could be granted by the National Biosafety Committee of the Philippines (NBCP).
A single location trial of elite lines will be done for two cropping seasons before yearend and would last until the middle of next year at IRRI's controlled-facility at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Los Baños, Laguna.
Multi-location field trials will be conducted in 2010 to gather agronomic and biosafety data.
PhilRice is breeding Golden Rice into PSB Rc82, the most popular variety and grown all over the Philippines, and new, high quality, multi-disease resistant varieties or the "3-in-1" rice that combines Golden Rice with the Tungro virus- and bacterial leaf blight-resistant varieties.
Gerard Barry, coordinator of the Golden Rice Network, said in his update on Golden Rice that he hopes national government agencies, particularly the NCBP, will approve its commercial release by 2011.
Golden Rice Network unites experts in various research institutes in the Philippines, Vietnam, Germany, India, Bangladesh, China, and Indonesia.
The technology was provided mainly by the seed company Syngenta, which donated the Golden Rice (SGR1) seeds and lines to the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board n 2004.
The donation followed the successful completion of the first Golden Rice field trials and harvest in the US in September 2004, after the seed company announced that it has no commercial interest in the Golden Rice project, but will continue to support it for "humanitarian reasons."
Golden Rice was genetically-induced with micronutrients like betacarotene, the precursor of Vitamin A, iron and zinc, to combat malnutrition.
Biofortification, according to experts, targets the poor who eat rice, scientifically known as Oriza sativa. Half of the population of the entire planet consumes rice.
Barry said two billion people are iron deficient, half of which are pregnant women in Asia. Another two billion people, he said, suffer from zinc deficiency, while it was estimated that around 250 million children are hobbled by Vitamin A deficiency.
The same health problems are experienced by millions of Filipinos, particularly children and pregnant women, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI). – Biolife Media Service