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2-Plants: Syngenta donates its new version of Golden Rice to PRRI and IRRI

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Syngenta sees development of vitamin-rich GM rice
SOURCE: The Manila Bulletin, Phillipnes, by Melody M. Aguiba
DATE:   6 Jul 2005

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Syngenta sees development of vitamin-rich GM rice

The development of a genetically modified (GM) rice rich in Vitamin A is
seen to be accelerated by a more advanced genetic "transformation event"
being donated by plant breeder Syngenta which uses corn (maize) as source
of pro-Vitamin A betacarotene.

Dr. Antonio A. Alfonso, plant breeding and biotechnology chief of the
Philippine Rice Research Institute (PRRI), said PRRI is collaborating
with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the development
of GM rice fortified with Vitamin A using a transformation event to be
donated by Syngenta to the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board (GRHB).

A transformation event involves the transfer of a gene with the desired
trait (in this case, betacarotene enrichment) into a plant targeted to be
transformed with this desired characteristic.

"Syngenta is donating the transformation event to the Humanitarian Board
to IRRI which will share this with us," Alfonso said in an interview.

PRRI and IRRI have earlier been working on GM rice endowed with Vitamin A
using a transformation event, also donated by Syngenta, that inserted the
gene of Vitamin A rich daffodil into rice.

But the insertion of a daffodil gene into rice will definitely involve
more complications in getting approved by the National Committee on
Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) and the entire Philippine GM
regulatory body since daffodil, a flower with yellow petals, is not food.

"The use of maize will hasten regulations because the issue of
allergenicity and toxicity will no longer be delved very stringently
because daffodil is not being eaten, but maize is food," he said.

What is good about the use of corn gene is it has raised betacarotene
level to 37 micrograms (MG) per gram compared to only 1.6 MG per gram
betacarotene content in daffodil.

"That's an increase of 23 times," Alfonso said who explained that
scientists have shifted to inserting gene with betacarotene gene in rice
instead of a gene with Vitamin A since human intake of excessive Vitamin
A is known to lead to toxicity.

On the other hand, when taken by human, excess betacarotene is only
disposed of by the body rather than poisons it.

"Even if you eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables with
betacarotene, the excess is just eliminated," he said.

With food safety known in corn, Alfonso said the completion of for the GM
rice tstings, also called "Golden Rice" for its yellow color, may come sooner.

"We already have the F1 progeny, the cross between the popular inbred
rice variety and the golden rice. We'll still cross it many times, (but)
we project within three years we'll have a stable line (in a contained
laboratory)," he said.

Instead of using highyielding hybrid rice varieties (a cross-pollination
of two parents with superior characteristics) for the betacarotene
enrichment, PRRI will use an inbred (self-pollinating) variety prevalent
in Vitamin A deficiency areas.

"The idea is to use inbred so that farmers planting in Vitamin A
deficient (VAD) farflung areas in Visayas and Mindanao who only depend on
subsistence farming won't need seeds everytime," he said.

Unlike inbred seeds that can be used repeatedly, hybrid seeds are used
only once or they lose their yield vigor.

PRRI is specifically crossing the golden rice with inbred PSBRC 82 which
yields an already high five metric tons (MT) per hectare.

Since regulatory testing is done in the field, Alfonso said
multilocational testings (required in propagating a GM crop) may done
simultaneously with regulatory requirements for the commercialization of
GM rice after PRRI's development of a stable line in three years.

Alfonso noted though that an important test has to be done on the GM rice
--- an efficiency test which determines if this rice will indeed raise
Vitamin A level in man.

But this study, he said, may already be undertaken by the GHRB and IRRI
rather than by the PRRI.

Alfonso said that it is known that since all living things -- plants and
animals -- have certain common genes, it does not actually matter where
the gene will come from for as long as it contains the traits desired.
However, he said that genetic engineering experts found that among the
betacaroteneendowed gene used, among these were tomato, pepper, daffodil,
corn, and another rice variety, corn had the highest betacarotene content.

VAD is said to be inflicting 100 to 200 million children worldwide and is
causing one to 2.5 million deaths in preschool children. In the
Philippines, VAD is inflicting two in very 10 pregnant and lactating
women and four in every 10 children aged six months to five years.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Philrice eyes new vitamin a-rich, disease-resistant rice variety
SOURCE: Yahoo Finance, sent by Checkbiotech, Switzerland
DATE:   5 Jul 2005

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Philrice eyes new vitamin a-rich, disease-resistant rice variety

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is targeting to
introduce before 2010 a new nutritionally-enhanced and disease-resistant
rice variety.

We aim to produce after about three years a rice variety rich in beta-
carotene or Vitamin A and resistant to 'tungro' disease and bacterial
blight, said Dr. Antonio Alfonso, head of PhilRice's Plant Breeding and
Biotechnology Division.

Alfonso said PhilRice already began growing in its screened nursery last
month F1 or first generation seeds of this new variety to assess
characteristics and performance of the resulting plants.

He explained PhilRice researchers developed the F1 seeds by cross-
breeding 'cocodrie' golden rice seeds from major seed producer Syngenta
with PSBRC82 rice seeds popularly used in the Philippines.

He noted Syngenta used genetic engineering to produce 'cocodrie' golden
rice seeds from which plants with yellow grains rich in beta-carotene are

The term 'golden rice' refers to genetically-modified rice that produces
carotenoids in the grain, giving rise to its yellow color.

Since the 'cocodrie' golden rice variety is rich in beta-carotene, we
hope to produce this characteristic in PSBRC82 seeds, he said.

According to Alfonso, PhilRice is seeking to develop such variety since,
he said, available rice varieties in the country are no longer capable of
producing beta-carotene through the natural process.

He noted that beta-carotene is the most important of the carotenoids, an
effective antioxidant and helps reduce cellular damage in the body.

So we're putting back into the new variety missing genes needed to
produce such vitamin, he said.

In a report, Alfonso said milled white rice contains almost negligible
amounts of micronutrients.

Unmilled brown rice contains small amounts of micronutrients but
Filipinos are used to eating well-milled rice, he observed.

If the agency's experiments prove successful, authorities are optimistic
the new micronutrient-packed rice variety will help lessen incidence of
Vitamin A deficiency, particularly among Filipino pregnant women and children.

This condition is a major health concern since experts said it causes
both night and total blindness, damages the body's immune system, reduces
cognitive abilities of children and increases mortality and morbidity rates.

Citing international figures, Alfonso reported some 70 per cent of
children under five years of age in Southeast Asia suffer from Vitamin A

PhilRice is also eyeing lower rice crop destruction from 'tungro' disease
with eventual introduction of the new variety.

This is a viral disease transmitted by green leaf hoppers so total crop
loss is possible if young rice plants are infected with 'tungro' disease,
Alfonso said.

According to experts, signs of 'tungro' include discoloration and mottled
appearance of leaf blades, reduced tillering and delayed flowering of plants.

The variety we are experimenting on now is also expected to lower crop
loss from bacterial blight, Alfonso added.

According to experts, this common rice plant disease is caused by a
microbe called 'xanthomonas oryzae' which enters through wounds or water
pores in leaves and invades vascular tissues.

They also noted bacterial blight can cause farm yield losses from 20 to
60 per cent.

Using resistant cultivars, the experts added, is the most economical and
best approach to bacterial blight management.


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