Golden Rice

"Golden Rice" is a descriptive term serving two purposes: to describe the physical appearance of the grain and to describe the hope and potential that this grain holds.

Golden rice is the result of genetic research by Dr. Ingo Protrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's Institute for Plant Sciences, with funding by the Rockefeller Foundation. The primary goal of this project was to develop rice with enhanced beta-carotene, a nutrient required by the body that is converted into vitamin A.

Of what significance are beta-carotene and vitamin A? The proper balance of nutrients in the diet is essential for good health and normal development. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a condition that can cause blindness, increased vulnerability to infections and even death. VAD is the single most important cause of childhood blindness in developing countries and UNICEF estimates that approximately 124 million children in the world are deficient in this vitamin. It is because of these staggering numbers that this genetic research was initiated.

Rice accounts for 80% of the world’s diet. Rice plants do produce beta-carotene, but only in the green part of the plant that is not consumed by humans. VAD is the result of rice being the predominant food in one’s diet and is primarily a major health concern in poor countries.

Dr. Potrykus genetically engineered beta-carotene production in rice by inserting three genes into the rice plant. Two of these genes were from daffodils and one from the bacterium Erwina uredovora. The result is a transgenic rice plant capable of producing beta-carotene in sufficient quantities to meet the daily vitamin A requirement with only 300 grams of cooked rice.

Genetic research of this nature and the application of this research have worldwide impact and a direct beneficial effect for millions of children around the globe. According to a statement by the Council for Biotechnology Information, "Golden Rice is an exciting and revolutionary development…"