With Vitamin A deficiency affecting low-income communities that rely on rice as a primary food staple, scientists conducted surveys of rice varieties around the world and failed to identify any varieties that contain significant amounts of beta-carotene. Since none were found, conventional breeding programs could not be used to develop Golden Rice. Instead, scientists used genetic modification techniques to develop Golden Rice by using genes from maize and a common soil microorganism that together produce beta-carotene in the rice grain.
Golden Rice gets its golden color from the beta-carotene contained in it. Many fruits and vegetables that are commonly eaten, such as squash, papaya and carrots, also get their color from beta-carotene.
The body converts beta-carotene in Golden Rice to vitamin A as it is needed. According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009, daily consumption of a very modest amount of Golden Rice – about a cup (or around 150 g uncooked weight) – could supply 50% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin A for an adult.
History of the Golden Rice Project
Golden Rice was invented by Professor Ingo Potrykus, then of the Institute for Plant Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and Professor Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg, Germany. By 1999, Professor Potrykus and Dr. Beyer produced a prototype Golden Rice and published their landmark research in Science.
The inventors’ desire to donate Golden Rice as a gift to resource-poor farmers in developing countries led to a public-private partnership with Syngenta to help further develop Golden Rice.
Scientists at Syngenta then carried out additional laboratory, greenhouse, and field research to help raise the beta-carotene levels in Golden Rice. In 2005, they developed a new version of Golden Rice that produces substantially more beta-carotene than the 1999 prototype - as published in Nature Biotechnology.
Syngenta arranged royalty-free access to the patents and intellectual property, held by several biotechnology companies, for a number of key technologies used in Golden Rice. This allows IRRI and others to develop Golden Rice varieties on a non-profit basis.
The inventors, with the help of Adrian Dubock, also established the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board and the Golden Rice Network of public sector institutions through which they continue to actively work to enable the development and introduction of local Golden Rice varieties that would be well-suited to the different target countries.
IRRI is the coordinating institution for the Golden Rice Network and has been working to develop Golden Rice with national partners since 2006.
Golden Rice is intended to complement current strategies in the fight against VAD as it is expected to supply up to 30 to 50 percent of the estimated average requirement for vitamin A for preschool age children and pregnant or lactating mothers.
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IRRI is working with partners to develop Golden Rice as a potential new food-based approach to improve vitamin A status. Our work will:
Develop varieties suitable for Asian farmers
Breeders at the Philippine Department of Agriculture - Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice), the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), and the Indonesian Center for Rice Research (ICRR) are developing Golden Rice versions of existing rice varieties that are popular with their local farmers, retaining the same yield, pest resistance, and grain qualities. Golden Rice seeds are expected to cost farmers the same as other rice varieties. Once PhilRice, BRRI, and ICRR are able to secure an approval from their respective regulatory agencies, cooking and taste tests will be done to make sure that Golden Rice meets consumers' needs.
Help assess the safety of Golden Rice
To help assess the safety of Golden Rice in the environment, field tests and other evaluations will be done in each partner country. Golden Rice will be analyzed according to internationally accepted guidelines for food safety.
The national rice institutes plan to submit all safety information to government regulators who will review these data as part of the approval process for Golden Rice before it can be made available to farmers and consumers. Currently, the Golden Rice project has entered into the regulatory phase wherein biosafety applications are being submitted to the appropriate authorities in Canada, the United States, Australia/New Zealand, and the
Evaluate whether consumption of Golden Rice improves vitamin A status
After obtaining the necessary permits and approvals, an independent community nutrition study will be conducted to evaluate the efficacy of Golden Rice; in other words, whether or not it improves vitamin A status. The nutrition study is necessary to determine the potential for Golden Rice to be used as a public health approach for reducing vitamin A deficiency.
Explore how Golden Rice could reach those most in need
IRRI is now collecting information to develop strategies to ensure that Golden Rice could reach farmers and consumers. If approved by national regulators and found to be safe and efficacious, IRRI and its partners will work together to introduce Golden Rice as another food-based approach to improve vitamin A status. A sustainable delivery program will also be implemented to ensure that Golden Rice is acceptable and accessible in vitamin A deficient communities.
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is working with a range of other organizations and individuals on the Golden Rice project. They bring additional expertise in nutrition, plant science, agriculture, biosafety, stakeholder outreach, and communication, and to provide financial support.
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
As the world’s largest nonprofit independent research and training organization IRRI develops new rice varieties and crop management techniques to address poverty and hunger and improve the health of rice farmers and consumers in a sustainable manner.
IRRI is the administrative lead organization for this Golden Rice project. IRRI’s other contributions to this project include:
- Providing technical support and training to help with breeding and development,
- Building scientific capacity at the national level,
- Assisting in developing locally adapted plans to deliver Golden Rice to farmers and consumers, and
- Participating in research and collation of data to assess the safety of Golden Rice for human health and the environment.
Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)
PhilRice is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture that works to develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.
To help Filipino farmers achieve holistic development, PhilRice pursues the following goals to
- Lead strategic efforts in national rice science for development;
- Help ensure rice self-sufficiency and food security;
- Increase farm productivity and profitability;
- reduce hunger and poverty;
- provide new knowledge and information;
- transform lives in rice farming communities; and
- make rice R&D rewarding for scientists and researchers..
PhilRice leads the development of new Golden Rice varieties that are tailored to specific rice-growing conditions in the Philippines. One popular rice variety currently being developed by PhilRice to have a Golden Rice counterpart is PSB Rc82 (Peñaranda), a popular, high-yielding, and widely grown rice variety. PhilRice is conducting field tests and trials of Golden Rice, in accordance with regulatory requirements. It works closely with national stakeholders across the Philippines.
PhilRice has been involved with the Golden Rice Network for many years. It is also developing a ‘3-in-1’ variety of Golden Rice, which will have resistance to tungro and bacterial blight, two of the most devastating rice diseases in the country.
Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI)
BRRI is the national agency in Bangladesh responsible for rice research and development.
It is managing the selection and development of rice varieties with the Golden Rice trait, beginning with BRRI dhan29, one of the most important varieties in Bangladesh. BRRI is conducting field evaluations of Golden Rice in Bangladesh for several seasons and weill undertake other biosafety research required for regulatory review of Golden Rice in the country. It also interacts with other public- and private-sector institutions in Bangladesh that are active in nutrition, seed delivery, and other areas related to Golden Rice.
BRRI is an active and long-standing member of the Golden Rice Network, at the forefront of work to adapt Golden Rice to specific rice-growing conditions in Bangladesh.
Indonesian Center for Rice Research (ICRR)
ICRR is part of the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD).
Breeders at ICRR are developing Golden Rice varieties which are suited to the local environment. It is working with the Golden Rice trait in the local varieties that are popular with farmers, including Ciherang and IR64. Ciherang is a popular rice variety that is planted on more than 40% of total rice area across many parts of Indonesia.
ICRR is also gathering data that will be needed by regulators in order to assess the safety of Golden Rice. Golden Rice will be analyzed according to internationally accepted guidelines for environmental and food safety. ICRR will submit all safety information to government regulators who will review these data as part of the approval process for Golden Rice before it can be made available to farmers and consumers in Indonesia.
Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP)
BCP is a stakeholder organization advocating for the safe and responsible use of modern biotechnology for the attainment of national development goals in the Philippines. Its members include scientists, teachers, doctors, medical school professors, students, farmers, clergy, civil society advocates, and media practitioners. BCP organizes and participates in frequent dialogue activities, many in conjunction with governmental authorities, with people on all sides of the biotechnology issue in the Philippines at both the national and provincial levels.
BCP helps ensure this participatory and inclusive approach guides all Golden Rice stakeholder outreach activities – which take place at regular intervals and key milestones throughout the life of the project.
Helen Keller International (HKI)
Founded in 1915, HKI is an international non-government organization dedicated to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. HKI combats the causes and consequences of preventable blindness and malnutrition by establishing programs based on evidence and research in vision, health, and nutrition.
HKI will serve as an independent evaluator to determine the efficacy of Golden Rice, that is, whether its consumption improves vitamin A status. This evaluation will only take place after Golden Rice is approved by national regulators and deemed safe for human consumption. HKI will also work to ensure that, if it is deployed, the product will reach those at risk of vitamin A deficiency, who are often the poorest groups in society.
Financial support for this nonprofit Golden Rice project comes from:
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, the foundation focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation first supported the Golden Rice project through the Grand Challenges in Human Health initiative. It currently supports the project through its Agriculture Development strategy.
The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation fosters innovative solutions to many of the world's most pressing challenges, affirming its mission, since 1913, to “promote the well-being” of humanity. Today, the Foundation works to ensure that more people can tap into the benefits of globalization while strengthening resilience to its risks.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
USAID provides foreign assistance to further America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world.