Crop Tech Corner

FDA Approves Golden Rice for Consumption

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
Connect with Emily:
Golden Rice took a big step toward commercial release in Asia and Southeast Asia, after several food regulatory agencies, including the FDA, approved it. (DTN photo illustration by Nick Scalise)

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- This bi-monthly column condenses the latest news in the field of crop technology, research and products.

FDA GIVES GOLDEN RICE A NOD

The international effort to release a strain of rice known as Golden Rice is nearing completion. On May 24, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) became the third major regulatory agency this year to approve the product for consumption and release it from further pre-market review. That decision followed similar approvals from food regulatory agencies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Golden Rice has been the source of much controversy, stemming from its status as a genetically modified (GM) crop. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has been working since 2006 to develop a strain of rice engineered to produce beta-carotene, which the human body converts into Vitamin A. The bright yellow rice can deliver up to 30% to 50% of a woman or child's average Vitamin A requirement, according to the IRRI. The group hopes to release this strain of rice for production in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia where poverty and malnutrition have created Vitamin-A deficiencies in hundreds of millions of people, primarily children and pregnant and lactating women. The deficiency can cause blindness and early death.

The FDA's approval of Golden Rice "takes us one step closer to bringing Golden Rice to the people who need it the most," IRRI Director Matthew Morell said in a press release. The variety is still waiting on regulatory approvals in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam and India before it can be cultivated there. However, more than governmental red tape stands in the path of this strain of rice. Anti-GMO groups such as Greenpeace have led a crusade against Golden Rice, arguing that it is unsafe, under-researched and will lead to more GMO cultivation. Protestors have famously destroyed experimental plots of the crop in the Philippines and lobbied against its cultivation in the Asian countries IRRI is targeting for production.

See the FDA's approval of Golden Rice here: https://www.fda.gov/…

See the IRRI press release here:

http://irri.org/…

RICE RESEARCH TACKLES YIELD, DISEASE & GENETICS

More than half the world's population eats rice every single day, making it one of the most important global grains. As a result, a lot of research centers on making the grain more productive and resilient to changes and stresses in its environment. A few recent research projects have had good success.

Purdue University scientists collaborated with Chinese scientists to produce a variety of rice that produces 25% to 31% more grain. The project used CRISPR-Cas9, a gene-editing technique, to make mutations to 13 genes that control phytohormone abscisic acid production, which effects how plants manage stress. Next, the scientists will use gene editing to make the same changes in elite rice germplasm to see if the effect translates to higher yielding varieties.

See a press release on the Purdue discovery here: https://www.purdue.edu/…

The ag biotech company Arcadia Biosciences also announced recently that it has produced a strain of rice that significantly out-yielded its peers under common stress conditions, namely nitrogen shortages and drought. The GM rice stacks three novel traits -- nitrogen efficiency, water use efficiency and salt tolerance. In low-nitrogen conditions, the rice yielded an average of 25% more than other rice lines. In both low-nitrogen and drought conditions, the GM rice line yielded an average of 40% more than other rice lines. This triple-stack rice is a result of a USAID-sponsored project coordinated by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation.

See the Arcadia announcement here:

https://www.arcadiabio.com/…

A team of British and American scientists have had a breakthrough in their research into rice blast, a fungus that destroys up to 30% of the crop each year globally. The scientists discovered that preventing the production of a single protein in the fungus can halt the disease's spread throughout the rice plant. The research is still lab-based and not field ready, but it could help researchers better understand the disease and build plants that can defeat it.

See a press release on the discovery here:

http://www.exeter.ac.uk/…

Finally, a large international group of scientists has mapped out the genomes of more than 3,000 Asian rice lines. The effort should help rice breeders tackle new varieties faster than ever. "What could previously take up to 40 years from trait discovery to varietal development can now only take just a few years," Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, an IRRI scientist who worked on the project, said in a press release.

See that release here:

http://irri.org/…

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee

(PS/AG)

Emily Unglesbee