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2-Plants: Development of "Golden Rice" continues

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TITLE:  4 centres picked for GM rice tech transfer
        TN farm varsity among those identified
SOURCE: The Hindu Business Line, India, by L.N. Revathy
DATE:   May 22, 2003

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4 centres picked for GM rice tech transfer - TN farm varsity among those

COIMBATORE, May 22 - THE Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has identified
four centres in the country for transfer of the 'golden rice' gene in
established traditional rice varieties, almost 18 months after getting
the private licence from the inventors of the genetically-modified rice.

The inventors - Dr Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology and Dr Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg had under the
Indo-Swiss collaborative programme on biotechnology (ISCB) given the
right to DBT to supply the seeds to research institutions, breeders and
biotechnologists "to optimise the trade in many respects and eventually
provide an area-specific rice line for the people".

Besides India, five other countries, namely Vietnam, China, South Africa,
Indonesia and Philippines have also been roped in under this
collaborative programme for transfer of the golden rice technology in
their respective traditional varieties.

While South Africa was working on infusing the technology in maize line,
the rest, according to Dr Beyer were working on rice lines.

In India, the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University is among the identified
research institutes for transfer of this technology.

Dr Beyer, who was here to oversee the facilities, told Business Line that
the ISCB's central project was in India.

"China can play a similar role, but the southern provinces can be a
problem. Incidentally, it is not a single silver bullet approach. We will
have to see where and which method is suited best for the rural
community," he added.

According to him, golden rice does not contain any new gene that was not
there in rice or other species of plants.

The transgenes in golden rice provided for synthetic ability for beta-
carotene in the endosperm, which was not there in normal rice.

Rice being the staple food for a very large section of the world
population, particularly in the developing countries, did not contain
enough nutrients other than starch.

Either out of ignorance or lack of accessibility, people did not take to
diverse items of food. This had resulted in vitamin A deficiency among others.

Golden rice would help in getting some amount of pro-vitamin into the
system without an additional effort, he replied to a query and said that
'the technology (in principle) could be used in other crops as well. It
is feasible in wheat too. But rice is much simpler. We are exploring to
collaborate further on micronutrients in general'.

Dr Beyer did not rule out the fortification of components in other crops
within the next five to 10 years.

"Knowledge is growing rapidly in this space. So much comes out of rice
genome. We are confident of exploiting many other pathways soon. The
development is unbelievable and rapid," said the excited professor.

"The scientific community will have to find new ways of tapping this
technology," he added.

To a query on investment, he said that this was one of the cheapest
projects, with the upstream research to make the invention totalling
$3,00,000, spread over 6 years. "This was met out of the Rockfeller
Fellowship," he said.