GENET archive


2-Plants: Rice may be 'golden' to world's poor

   "In 2001, scientists in Japan inserted the genes into the Cocodrie
    rice variety. Since Cocodrie was developed at the LSU AgCenter Rice
    Research Station in 1998, it has become the most widely used variety
    of rice grown in the United States. [...]  'This may not be anything
    U.S. producers actually grow, but it may be. We don't know what its
    potential is,' Linscombe said."
                                              LSU AgCenter, 13 Oct 2004

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Rice may be 'golden' to world's poor
SOURCE: The Times-Picayune, USA, by Joan Treadway
DATE:   17 Jan 2005

------------------- archive: -------------------

Rice may be 'golden' to world's poor
Genetically altered grain grown by LSU

A Louisiana scientist is hopeful that the tests that he and his team did
last year on a genetically improved rice -- as well as the work they plan
to do in the new year -- will someday lead to better health for
impoverished people around the world.

Steve Linscombe, a regional director for the Louisiana State University
Agricultural Center and its chief rice breeder, said his team was asked
by a humanitarian organization "to see how the rice did in the real world."

 In the 1990s, European researchers developed what has been labeled
"golden rice," because of its rich amber hue, by inserting genes from
daffodils into rice plants. The genetic engineering caused the rice
plants to produce beta carotene, a substance that the human body converts
to vitamin A, Linscombe said.

Starting in May 2004, the team planted less than a pound of golden rice
seeds and produced almost 400 pounds of the rice, whose stunning gold
color is revealed after the rice is hulled and milled, he said. The yield
was about the same as that of a comparison plot of regular rice, he said.

For the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, an international group that is
trying to get golden rice to needy people around the globe and that
provided a $25,000 grant for the LSU project, the results were impressive.

Some members of the board -- including Swiss scientist Ingo Potrykus and
German researcher Peter Beyer, the developers of golden rice -- came to
the AgCenter rice research station in Crowley in September, after
Linscombe had successfully grown and harvested the rice. They examined
his results, he said, "and they were excited."

It was the first time they had seen so much golden rice, he said.

Since then, Linscombe has sent much of his new crop to be analyzed at
laboratories around the world, where its beta carotene content will be
measured precisely.

But he saved some to continue his own tests.

Previously, golden rice had been grown only in controlled settings, such
as greenhouses. and there had been no field trials, he said.

Linscombe said that eventually the golden grain could improve the lives
of people in struggling countries, including India, Indonesia and other
nations affected by last month's tsunami. Easier access to beta carotene
and vitamin A could prevent blindness and other medical problems, he said.

As part of the research into golden rice, Linscombe said that he and the
staff at his research station cooked some of it up.

The results? Just what Linscombe wanted: The grain didn't taste any
different than the high-yield Cocodrie variety from which most of it came
and which the AgCenter developed in the late 1990s.

The slow, cautious approach that scientists are using with golden rice
should offset the concern among opponents of genetically engineered foods
that long-term consumption could cause health problems, Linscombe said.

To the contrary, he believes that it will help alleviate the medical
troubles of people with vitamin deficiencies.

He is in the midst of discussions with the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
once again, and expects to do more work with them again this year, such
as growing larger plots of the same golden rice and also growing yet
another type of golden rice, which may have a higher beta carotene content.

Besides being especially useful for people in developing nations, golden
rice could also become another option for people here and could likely be
grown by Louisiana farmers, he said.

The research station has produced other kinds of rice that are resistant
to herbicides and insects, he said.

There is so far no genetically engineered rice being grown commercially
in the United States, Linscombe said. But there is precedent for the
concept, he said. About 90 percent of the soybean acreage in the United
States is genetically engineered, largely to help it survive both weed-
killers and bugs.


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