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I am passionate about science. I believe that GM crops can be an excellent source of micronutrients


GM crops such as golden rice are biofortified with micronutrients essential for growing up healthily

"Vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in more than half of all countries, especially in Africa and South-East Asia, hitting hardest young children and pregnant women in low-income countries." - WHO

What happens if someone has a prolonged dietary deficiency in provitamin A? Provitamin A is the precursor for vitamin A, which is essential for normal growth and development, for the maintenance of the immune system and a normal vision. The long-term deficiency in vitamin A increases the risk of suffering from diseases and severe infections which can even lead to death.

For children, a vitamin A deficiency leads to severe visual impairment and even blindness. The risk of a severe illness, and even death, from childhood infections such as diarrhoeal diseases or measles is significantly increased.

For pregnant women, the highest risk of suffering from a vitamin A deficiency occurs in the last trimester when the demand by both the fetus and the mother is highest. This deficiency comes with a high prevalence of night blindness.

How can vitamin A deficiency be reduced in high-risk areas? Supplementing food with adequate vitamin A in high-risk areas can significantly reduce mortality. The periodic supply of high-dose vitamin A capsules has shown to reduce mortality by 23% overall and by up to 50% for acute measles sufferers. However, the effect of a capsule lasts only a few months and long-term solutions are needed.

This is when food fortification takes over. People living in developing countries who can only afford a diet of starchy staples, such as rice, are particularly vulnerable to vitamin A deficiency. Since rice is widely produced and consumed, the biotechnologically engineered Golden Rice has the potential to provide many people with essential amounts of vitamin A.


Manipulation of Carotenoid Content in Plants to Improve Human Health.

Abstract: Carotenoids are essential components for human nutrition and health, mainly due to their antioxidant and pro-vitamin A activity. Foods with enhanced carotenoid content and composition are essential to ensure carotenoid feasibility in malnourished population of many countries around the world, which is critical to alleviate vitamin A deficiency and other health-related disorders. The pathway of carotenoid biosynthesis is currently well understood, key steps of the pathways in different plant species have been characterized and the corresponding genes identified, as well as other regulatory elements. This enables the manipulation and improvement of carotenoid content and composition in order to control the nutritional value of a number of agronomical important staple crops. Biotechnological and genetic engineering-based strategies to manipulate carotenoid metabolism have been successfully implemented in many crops, with Golden rice as the most relevant example of β-carotene improvement in one of the more widely consumed foods. Conventional breeding strategies have been also adopted in the bio-fortification of carotenoid in staple foods that are highly consumed in developing countries, including maize, cassava and sweet potatoes, to alleviate nutrition-related problems. The objective of the chapter is to summarize major breakthroughs and advances in the enhancement of carotenoid content and composition in agronomical and nutritional important crops, with special emphasis to their potential impact and benefits in human nutrition and health.

Pub.: 04 Aug '16, Pinned: 11 Apr '17

Golden rice: scientific, regulatory and public information processes of a genetically modified organism.

Abstract: Historically, agricultural development evolved in three phases. During the first phase the plants were selected on the basis of the availability of a plant with desirable properties at a specific location. The second phase provided the agricultural community with crossbreeding plants to achieve improvement in agricultural production. The evolution of biological knowledge has provided the ability to genetically engineer (GE) crops, one of the key processes within genetically modified organisms (GMO). This article uses golden rice, a species of transgenic Asian rice which contains a precursor of vitamin A in the edible part of the plant as an example of GE/GMO emphasizing Chinese experience in agricultural evolution. It includes a brief review of agricultural evolution to be followed by a description of golden rice development. Golden rice was created as a humanitarian project and has received positive comments by the scientific community and negative voices from certain environmental groups. In this article, we use the Best Available Science (BAS) Concept and Metrics for Evaluation of Scientific Claims (MESC) derived from it to evaluate claims and counter claims on scientific aspects of golden rice. This article concludes that opposition to golden rice is based on belief rather than any of its scientifically derived nutritional, safety or environmental properties.

Pub.: 22 Jan '15, Pinned: 11 Apr '17

Modern Breeding and Biotechnological Approaches to Enhance Carotenoid Accumulation in Seeds.

Abstract: There is an increasing demand for carotenoids, which are fundamental components of the human diet, for example as precursors of vitamin A. Carotenoids are also potent antioxidants and their health benefits are becoming increasingly evident. Protective effects against prostate cancer and age-related macular degeneration have been proposed for lycopene and lutein/zeaxanthin, respectively. Additionally, β-carotene, astaxanthin and canthaxanthin are high-value carotenoids used by the food industry as feed supplements and colorants. The production and consumption of these carotenoids from natural sources, especially from seeds, constitutes an important step towards fortifying the diet of malnourished people in developing nations. Therefore, attempts to metabolically manipulate β-carotene production in plants have received global attention, especially after the generation of Golden Rice (Oryza sativa). The endosperms of Golden Rice seeds synthesize and accumulate large quantities of β-carotene (provitamin A), yielding a characteristic yellow color in the polished grains. Classical breeding efforts have also focused in the development of cultivars with elevated seed carotenoid content, with maize and other cereals leading the way. In this communication we will summarize transgenic efforts and modern breeding strategies to fortify various crop seeds with nutraceutical carotenoids.

Pub.: 04 Aug '16, Pinned: 11 Apr '17