Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Rice à la ß-carotene

European researchers have successfully managed to incorporate the production of ß-carotene into rice. Apart from giving the rice a yellow appearance, this achievement represents a major breakthrough in the quest to prevent severe vitamin A deficiencies in countries that rely o...
European researchers have successfully managed to incorporate the production of ß-carotene into rice. Apart from giving the rice a yellow appearance, this achievement represents a major breakthrough in the quest to prevent severe vitamin A deficiencies in countries that rely on rice as a staple food.

Vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in at least 118 countries. It contributes to childhood blindness and makes children more susceptible to diseases such as respiratory infections, diarrhoea and measles, which are major causes of child morbidity and mortality.

According to the World Health Organisation, between 140 and 250 million pre-school children worldwide are deficient in vitamin A. But supplements are difficult to distribute effectively and costly to administer. Introducing vitamin A supplements into a staple food source - like rice - would be a useful alternative.

The 'Carotene plus' research project has succeeded in modifying rice by genetic engineering, to make it produce ß-carotene (provitamin A) which is converted into vitamin A by humans. This rice contains enough ß-carotene to meet the total vitamin A requirements for a typical Asian diet.

The genetically modified rice plants have been grown in full compliance with EU and national legislation in contained facilities. But, so far, the researchers have not applied for a permit to release the rice outside of the controlled test sites. Until the rice is certified, passing all European safety regulations, it cannot be planted in developing countries. This procedure may take at least five years.

In the meantime, this 'yellow rice' is being further developed. The research team are experimenting with genetic manipulations in different strains of rice, to produce ß-carotene-rice adapted to local conditions. Furthermore, the 'Carotene plus' project team is investigating ways of introducing the vitamin into other crops, including many other cereals.

The project is supported by the European Union through the FAIR programme, and its initial phase was supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Source: European Commission, DG XII

Related information

Programmes

Subjects

Food
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top