Plant Biotechnology

pp 245-262


Biofortification: Vitamin A Deficiency and the Case for Golden Rice

  • Robert S. ZeiglerAffiliated withInternational Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Email author 

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Worldwide, the most seriously limiting nutrient deficiencies in the human diet are iron, zinc, iodine—and vitamin A. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient needed for the visual system, growth, development, and a healthy immune system. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is most prevalent among young children and pregnant and nursing women. Despite significant efforts, including capsule supplementation, dietary diversification, fortifying commonly used foods, such as cooking oil with vitamin A, and optimal breastfeeding practices, VAD continues to adversely affect an estimated 190 million preschool children and 19 million pregnant women in the developing world. Since rice is widely produced and consumed in poor developing countries, it seems logical that, if this staple could be made to provide a source of vitamin A, it has the potential to reach millions of people who do not have reliable access to or cannot afford other sources of the vitamin. The nearly 30-year history of the development of Golden Rice, a genetically modified (GM) variety of the cereal that contains beta carotene in the grain, a source of vitamin A, is an enlightening story of vision, imagination, technological creativity, and persistence. Many organizations and individuals in the public and private sector have been involved in this effort that has attracted more than its share of controversy. But, hopefully, Golden Rice’s delivery to farmers and consumers will not be delayed much longer by those who oppose the use of this new, promising technology.


Human nutrition Beta carotene Vitamin A Golden Rice Biotechnology