It is undoubtedly great news that Bangladeshi scientists will be conducting field test on a vitamin A-enriched rice variety called Golden Rice, prior to taking it to the production phase. Golden Rice, a new type of rice that contains beta carotene, is being developed as a new food-based approach to solve the severe vitamin A deficiency affecting tens of thousands of children and pregnant women in Bangladesh. The success in developing this new rice variety is consistent with the progress made by Bangladesh in producing the first three zinc-rich rice varieties in the world.
It was in the late 1990s that two European scientists developed Golden Rice after inserting beta carotene-enriched rice gene from daffodil to rice; but after years of research and experiments, Bangladeshi scientists at IRRI have deduced that it would be more productive to transfer the beta carotene from rice than daffodil.
In Bangladesh, people rely on rice as a staple food for fulfilling their dietary needs. However, as rice does not contain any vitamin A in itself, this dependence often leads to severe dietary deficiency in vitamin A. As per the World Health Organisation, one in every five pre-school children and 23.7 percent of pregnant women in Bangladesh is vitamin A-deficient.
If produced successfully, it will no doubt add a nutritional value to our staple diet, and be an easy means of vitamin consumption for populations who cannot afford expensive vitamin supplements and food rich in vitamin A.