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2-Plants: GE mustard rich in b-carotene is field-tested in India

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TITLE:  Vitamin A-rich mustard for developing nations
SOURCE: AP-Food Technology, France, by Hridyesh Pandey
DATE:   8 Sep 2005

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Vitamin A-rich mustard for developing nations

08/09/2005 - A mustard variety rich in beta-carotene is being developed
in India to enhance the vitamin A status of populations in developing

The project, organised by the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), uses
technology first developed by Monsanto to raise beta-carotene levels in

As the mustard species is closely related to rapeseed yet its oil is more
widely used in countries like India, TERI teamed up with the biotech firm
to adapt and transfer this technology. They have gained backing from the
US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Michigan State
University (MSU).

"We hope that the success of this project will help alleviate vitamin A
deficiency among our people, especially children. It would be an
efficient and inexpensive vehicle for vitamin A, being already used as
the main source of cooking oil in many areas of India," said Dr Vibha
Dhawan, the principal investigator on the project.

Cooking oil made from mustard seeds is the second most common type of
cooking oil used in India with an estimated 25 per cent of the population
using it.

After the initial work on genetic transformation on Brassica juncea cv.
Pusa Bold and Varuna at the Monsanto Research Centre at Bangalore, T3
transgenic seeds with enhanced beta-carotene content were provided to
TERI and the seeds were grown simultaneously at two places: the National
Phytotron Facility in IARI, New Delhi and, in a greenhouse at TERI's Gual
Pahari campus in Gurgaon, to raise the next generation of plants (T3).

Selfed seeds harvested from the T3 generation had to be sown again for
bulking up for one more cycle. Field testing of the developed plants is
currently taking place.

Biotechnology methods have been used to increase the levels of beta-
carotene in rapeseed crops and the oil extracted from the plants for a
number of years. One teaspoonful of high beta-carotene rapeseed oil in
the diet is enough to provide the recommended daily intake of vitamin A
for an adult.

According to the World Health Organization, vitamin A deficiency is a
global epidemic, with around 250 million people suffering significant
illnesses, including impairment of vision, inability to absorb proteins
and nutrients, and reduced immune function.


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