New strain of rice

a strain of genetically modified (gm) rice has been created by scientists to combat Vitamin A deficiency, the main cause of blindness that effects as many as 250 million children the world over.

Swiss biotechnologist Ingo Potrykus, who led the Vitamin A research, said his team was also completing work on another gm rice with increased iron content. Anaemia caused due to deficiency of iron is the world's worst nutrition disorder and it effects nearly two billion people.

The Vitamin A enhanced "golden rice' is the result of a research investment of more than us $100 million over a period of 10 years. It contains three transplanted genes that allow plants to produce rice kernels containingbeta-carotene, a compound that is converted to Vitamin A within the body. Due to the high level of beta-carotene present in it, the rice is a rich yellow in colour.

Lack of beta-carotene in the human body leads to vision impairment and ultimately blindness. According to estimates drawn by the United Nations (un), Vitamin A deficiency may cause two million deaths each year among children under the age of five years.