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The way we think about food is changing.

With the new developments of super foods, we have been able to grow bigger crops with more nutrients. We have the ability to do this by modifying the genes of the crops we are interested in, but how do these super foods influence our health? A popular type of super food is genetically modified Rice. The genes within the rice plant have been modified to produce certain nutrients that it otherwise would not normally produce. The fact that super foods can contain more nutrients than normal is why they have a huge influence on human health. One of the most interesting super foods is golden rice. Golden rice gets its name from the yellowish colour produced by its newly modified genes. The gene that is used in the rice crop is the PSY gene from daffodil (Yonekura- Sakakibara and Saito 2006). The reason golden rice is so popular is because it contains the carotenoid b-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A (Yonekura- Sakakibara and Saito 2006). Vitamin A deficiency is a huge problem in the world. Over 400 million people suffer from it and it can lead to blindness, xerophthalimia and a weak immune system (Gura 1999). It
Figure 1: http://www.nature.com/nbt/journ al/v23/n4/fig_tab/nbt0405429_F1.html

was proposed that golden rice could be a simple solution because rice was a staple food for many people. The problem with this super food was that it only contained 1.6 g/g of bcarotene (Yonekura- Sakakibara and Saito 2006). This amount was unrealistic in solving this problem because you would need to consume large amounts of rice to meet the minimum standard of vitamin A. A new design for golden rice was found which used an enzyme from maize to boost the content of b-carotene (Grusak 2005). It increased the content by over 20fold to give the new golden rice a b-carotene content of 37 g/g (Yonekura- Sakakibara and Saito 2006). This new result was more realistic than before. The reason why vitamin A from rice is so important is because carotenoids from plat origins may be better than retinol from animals. Like carotenoids, retinol produces vitamin A. However, if we intake too much retinol it could produce toxic levels of vitamin A (Yonekura- Sakakibara and Saito 2006). Further developments of this super food can have tremendous implications on human health and on vitamin A deficiency. Other than golden rice there are much more versions of genetically modified rice. Certain types of rice can be developed so that it contains more iron (Gura 1999). Iron is very

important to us for the absorption of oxygen in our blood. This new strain of rice can benefit many who suffer from iron deficiency because it not only contains more iron, but the iron in the genetically modified rice is more easily absorbed by our body (Gura 1999). Other forms of genetically modified rice can prevent allergies. Research into this species of rice is ongoing. It was shown that this type of rice prevented the production of cedar-pollen antibodies in mice (Yonekura- Sakakibara and Saito 2006). Human trials have not been complete but if they are successful then this type of rice may prevent cedar-pollen allergies. The future of super foods seems very promising with all of the benefits they have on human health. The grain is relatively cheap and many people eat rice constantly so using rice to solve worldwide health problems seems like a realistic goal. More specifically genetically modified rice, such as golden rice, could be a solution for vitamin A deficiency and many other health concerns.
Gura, T. New Genes Boost Rice Nutrients. Science. 285, 994-995 (1999). Yonekura- Sakakibara, K. Saito, K. Genetically modified plants for the promotion of human health. Biotechnol. Lett. 28,1983-1991(2006). Grusak, M.A. Golden rice gets a boost from maize. Nat. Biotechnol. 23, 429-430 (2005).