Mineral-rich rice to ease world's nutritional disorder

Mineral-rich rice to ease world's nutritional disorder

Iron deficiency is the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world and affects more than two billion people or a third of the global population, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Symptoms include poor mental development, depressed immune function and anaemia, the journal Public Library of Science reports.

Scientists from the Australian Center for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) have now engineered iron-rich rice to overcome this deficit, according to an Australian Center statement.

"Rice is the primary source of food for roughly half of the world's population, particularly in developing countries," said study author Alex Johnson from ACPFG.

"Yet the polished grain, also known as white rice, contains insufficient concentrations of iron, zinc and pro-vitamin A to meet daily nutritional requirements," added Johnson.

The research team, based at the universities of Adelaide, Melbourne and South Australia, and the Flinders University, modified rice to increase the amount of iron that is transported into the grain.

This resulted in rice that has up to four times more iron than conventional rice, besides doubled zinc levels.

"A lack of genetic variation in rice has hindered efforts by conventional breeding programs to address iron levels," said Johnson.

"These programs have not been able to achieve the level of iron and zinc in the rice grain that we are able to achieve with a biotech approach in our glasshouse experiments," he added.

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