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Grain of truth

Iron-clad rice
by Inez

H. Slamet-loedIn

n 2010, the number of be bioavailable. One preferred Iron-enrIched rice will soon contribute hungry people surpassed biotechnology approach uses to reducing "hidden hunger." 1 billion worldwide the gene from soybean for the because of increases in protein ferritin. Ferritin is an food prices. Unbeknownst iron-storage protein that can to many, more than 2 billion hold up to 4,500 atoms of iron people are suffering from per molecule in its central hidden hunger, a term used cavity. A study with humans to describe micronutrient with ferritin purified from malnutrition. Anemia soybean has shown that the iron affects more than 2 billion from this source is one of the people globally, with women most bioavailable forms known. and children most at risk. Several studies have reported Deficiency in dietary iron is a that the ferritin biotechnology main cause of anemia. It is the approach can increase the iron most common and widespread content to 810 ppm, but not yet Kurniawan rudi TrijaTmiKo nutrition problem, together to 14 ppm. with deficiency in zinc, iodine, and iron per kilogram (ppm) of rice, and a Recently, some studies have shown vitamin A. maximum of 45 ppm in a few rice mills that modifying the iron transporter Iron deficiency and iron deficiency in Vietnam. Similar studies in the U.S. nicotianamine in rice can be effective anemia cause a range of health problems and Brazil have verified the very low iron in increasing iron concentrations in the in humans, including increased chances in white rice. grain. This approach uses a number of of maternal and child mortality and Breeders at the International Rice rice genes for nicotianamine synthase to negative consequences on cognitive Research Institute screened thousands boost the overall levels of the transporter and physical development of children. of rice seeds from the International and thereby increase the movement of They also affect an individuals physical Rice Genebank (a seed bank) and from iron into the grain. The incorporation of performance, especially the work breeding lines and varieties for the the two approaches, soybean ferritin and productivity of adults. iron content in the polished rice. They rice nicotianamine synthase, together in Combating micronutrient identified a few potential breeding popular varieties, is now being advanced malnutrition is considered to be among materials with 58 ppm iron. Biofortified to determine whether the combination the best investments that generate a crops need to contribute at least 30% will lead to achieving the very important high return in socioeconomic benefits of the estimated average requirements goal of rice with higher iron. according to the 2008 Copenhagen for them to be meaningful to a target Biofortification can serve as an Consensus. The Consensus listed population group. The HarvestPlus important sustainable tool in combination biofortification, a method of breeding Program of the Consultative Group on with existing ways of overcoming crops in order to increase their nutritional International Agricultural Research has iron deficiency and iron deficiency value, as one of its top five investments to set a minimum of 14 ppm iron in polished anemia; these existing approaches address global challenges. rice to benefit women and children. include a diverse diet, fortification, and In developing countries, rice, as a Now, the next question is, how to fill supplements. The main advantages staple food, may still provide as much the gap. of developing varieties with high iron as 80% of the daily calorie intake. In addition to more breeding, one content are that this is a food-based Unfortunately, polished white rice option is to use modern biotechnology approach and delivering the solution contains low amounts of iron. A study to introduce other genes to increase the in such a widely consumed crop could of the iron content of polished rice uptake and storage of iron in the rice contribute to a large effect. marketed in a number of rice mills in endosperm (white rice when polished). the Philippines and Vietnam showed In earlier work, it has been established that popular varieties such as IR64, that the iron in rice is highly bioavailable Dr. Slamet-Loedin is a senior scientist Sinandomeng, Intan, and Jasmine 85 (can be absorbed and used by the human in IRRIs Plant Breeding, Genetics, and generally contain 23 milligrams of body) and additional iron should also Biotechnology Division.
Rice Today July-September 2011

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