Friday, October 30, 2015

IRRI rice breeder gives seminar on fighting hidden hunger with biofortified rice at University of Illinois

Rice is the major staple food crop for Asians and supplies 50 to 80% of their daily caloric intake. However, rice is low in essential micronutrients such as iron, zinc or vitamin A in its polished form. IRRI has been developing healthier rice varieties that contain more iron, zinc, and beta carotene (a source of vitamin A) to help reduce hidden hunger.

Russel Reinke, a rice breeder who focuses on developing rice varieties with high zinc and beta carotene, delivered a seminar Development of micronutrient-enriched rice for Asia at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He discussed a potential solution to fighting hidden hunger with the introduction of Golden Rice and high-zinc rice.

“Micronutrient deficiencies affect more than 3 billion people globally, causing nutritional health problems such as severe stunting, growth retardation, diarrhea, and impaired immune systems,” said Dr. Reinke. “Breeding rice varieties with high grain micronutrients is one of the sustainable, targeted, food-based and cost-effective approaches in ameliorating these micronutrient deficiencies.”

“Biofortification of rice using conventional breeding methods is being under taken at IRR with the objective of supplying increased zinc to the poor and malnourished people in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines,” he explained. “The development of Golden Rice requires a transgenic approach as there is no variation for beta-carotene in rice grains.”

Graduate fellows under the Lee Foundation Rice Scholarships had the privilege to attend Dr. Reinke’s seminar. In his visit, Dr, Reinke met with his supervisee Nirmal Sharma (Bangladesh) and his colleagues Pradeepa Hirannaiah (India), Lenie Quiatchon-Baeza (Philippines), Hung Bui (Vietnam), Parthiban Thathapalli Prakash (India) and Sampurna Saikia (India). He also had a meeting with UIUC’s Assistant Professor Erik Sacks who co-supervises Mr. Sharma’s PhD research project in Crop Science.

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