How does vitamin A rice help solve poverty and malnutrition in developing countries?
People whose staple diet is rice usually suffer from vitamin deficiencies. In Bangladesh, for instance, 75 per cent of the calories come from rice. Similarly, in countries like Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, rice accounts for 70 per cent of the calories. The problem of vitamin a deficiency is serious in these countries as rice is completely devoid of this vitamin. If we can introduce biosynthetic pathway into rice, then we can partially solve this problem. The breakthrough came when a Swiss scientist introduced three genes, which completed the biosynthetic pathway for the production of beta-carotene, which is a precursor of vitamin a . When you have it in the digestive system it gets converted to vitamin a or retinol.
What needs to be done before the rice is commercially grown?
The rice variety that the Swiss scientist worked on is good for transformation. But it cannot be used directly as it is primitive and not commercially grown. We have to transfer those genes to the varieties that are commercially grown