A golden era—pro-vitamin A enhancement in diverse crops

  • Chao Bai
  • Richard M. Twyman
  • Gemma Farré
  • Georgina Sanahuja
  • Paul Christou
  • Teresa Capell
  • Changfu ZhuEmail author
Invited Review


Numerous crops have been bred or engineered to increase carotenoid levels in an effort to develop novel strategies that address vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. The pioneering work in rice (not covered in this review) has been followed up in many additional crops, some of which are staples like rice whereas others are luxury products whose impact on food security is likely to be marginal. This review surveys the progress that has been made in carotenoid breeding and metabolic engineering, focusing on β-carotene enhancement in crops other than rice. We ask if these efforts have the potential to address vitamin A deficiency in developing countries by comparing bioavailable pro-vitamin A levels in wild type and enhanced crops to determine whether nutritional requirements can be met without the consumption of unrealistic amounts of food. The potential impact of carotenoid enhancement should therefore be judged against benchmarks that include the importance of particular crops in terms of global food security, the amount of bioavailable β-carotene, and the amount of food that must be consumed to achieve the reference daily intake of vitamin A.


Beta carotene Metabolic engineering Nutritional enhancement Biofortification Genetic engineering Food crops 



Research in our laboratory is supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN) Grant BFU2007-61413; European Research Council Advanced Grant BIOFORCE; Center Consolider, MICINN, Spain; COST Action FA0804, Associated Unit CAVA; and the SmartCell, FP7 Integrated Project.


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Copyright information

© The Society for In Vitro Biology 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chao Bai
    • 1
  • Richard M. Twyman
    • 2
  • Gemma Farré
    • 1
  • Georgina Sanahuja
    • 1
  • Paul Christou
    • 1
    • 3
  • Teresa Capell
    • 1
  • Changfu Zhu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Plant Production and Forestry Science, ETSEAUniversity of LleidaLleidaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of WarwickWarwickUK
  3. 3.Institució Catalana de Reserca i Estudis AvançatsBarcelonaSpain

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