GM Golden Rice by 2011

Hong Kong, Jan 30 | Updated: Jan 31 2008, 06:53am hrs
Genetically modified (GMO) Golden Rice may be available to farmers as early as 2011, possibly helping to save millions of children threatened with blindness or premature death due to Vitamin A deficiency.

Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), told Reuters it expected to release the GMO rice, enriched with Vitamin A, by 2011. It was conducting its first field trials in the Philippines this year.

It would be 10 years since the invention in 2001 of Golden Rice, which scientists have said may prove that the controversial biotechnology can help feed the poor and needy if applied with care and caution. There is as yet no GMO rice grown commercially. Widely produced transgenic products, such as GMO soy, corn or cotton, are mostly pest - or herbicide-resistant. They are beneficial to farmers, but not necessarily to consumers. Golden Rice, which includes three new genes, including two from daffodil, is yellowish and contains beta-carotene, a substance that human bodies convert to Vitamin A.

Its research has been seen as a model for cooperation between public and private sectors in pursuit of human welfare. Its inventors are claiming no property rights for the rice. Neither are the companies that own the technology involved.

Zeigler was talking early this week after IRRI received a grant of $20 million for three years -- equivalent to 17 percent of its budget -- from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.