Science News 22/05/2011

New grant to fund the golden rice project

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new grant to fund this project in the Philippines and Bangladesh. This is a summary of the media coverage, highlighting the new partnership and the potential benefits.

Nature News was one of the first to report on the new funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for Golden Rice. The article notes that diverse diets and fortified foods can be unaffordable or unobtainable in the development world, and people often ‘only have access to what they grow.’ Nutritionally enhanced staple crops, such as Golden Rice in Asia and BioCassava Plus in Africa (which the Foundation is also supporting), could benefit the more than two billion people worldwide who are affected by vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

- “I’m optimistic that biofortification can help to improve people’s health and lives because we are using sustainable foods that people already grow.” Lawrence Kent, head of agricultural development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

- “As long as we can show that [these products] add value and are safe, there is no mother who would not want to use them to increase the health of her kids.” Martin Fregene, a plant geneticist and the director of the BioCassava Plus Program.

On 19 April, Radio Australia’s Phil Kafcaloudes interviewed Dr Gerard Barry, IRRI’s Golden Rice project leader. They discussed why Golden Rice may be one of the first genetically modified crops to directly benefit those who consume it:

- Many countries fortify processed foods but people don’t always have access to them. “The idea behind Golden Rice is to improve the food that people have access to or can grow themselves. It’s a food-based approach.”

- Golden Rice can be grown locally by farmers in varieties that are well suited to their needs. “We’re developing rice that farmers will like and that will provide a source of vitamin A into the diets of the farmers and other consumers in the local community.”

- The involvement of new partner Helen Keller International (HKI) will ensure that Golden Rice complements other efforts to address vitamin A deficiency, and targets those communities not reached by current approaches.

Our work is focused in the Philippines and Bangladesh and was covered by the media in those countries.

- In Bangladesh, the Daily Star focused on upcoming field tests of a Golden Rice version of BRRI Dhan 29, the country’s most productive variety. Dr Alamgir Hossain, leader of BRRI’s Golden Rice project, recounted the involvement of Bangladeshi scientists at all stages of research and development to date.

- The Philippine Star described the potential for Golden Rice to fill the gap between existing approaches to fighting vitamin A deficiency and those in hard-to-reach areas who still do not get enough vitamin A.

di S. C.