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Nutritionally Complete Rice

The green revolution increased agricultural production around the world. Switching to high yielding cereal crops reduced starvation, but has caused many to suffer from malnutrition. With human population expected to reach 10 billion by 2100, humans cannot return to nutritionally complete, low yield, traditional agriculture. Genetically modifying cereal grains into nutritionally complete food may be the best way to satisfy the caloric and nutritional requirements of future generations.

In Southeast Asia, rice can make up 73% of total caloric intake. Unfortunately, rice does not contain any vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene. Vitamin A deficiency has caused blindness in hundreds of thousands of children every year.

Rice endosperm has no carotenoids, so conventional breeding canít increase beta-carotene content. The introduction of genes from daffodil (later maize) and soil bacterium resulted in yellow, beta-carotene containing rice grain. The newest version of golden rice contains enough beta-carotene to satisfy vitamin A RDA with normal consumption of 100-200g of rice per day. Further genetic modification could supply all essential vitamins.

Genetic modification has also improved rice grain Lys and Trp providing a balanced profile of all the essential amino acids. Genetic modification to accelerate leaf senescence could further increase nutrient remobilization resulting in increased grain protein, iron, and zinc content.

To avoid a Malthusian catastrophe, high yielding green revolution crops are our best hope for future food security. Although some fear pest and pesticide resistant genetically modified foods, there can be no opposition to nutritionally improved, genetically modified cereal grains. Withholding a cheap and effective cure for malnourishment would be unconscionable.

dodo@scientastica.com

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