Beyond Golden Rice: Efforts abound to biofortify crops with vitamin A but regulatory hurdles high

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[Editor’s note: Giovanni Giuliano is research director at the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development.]

Since the ‘golden rice’ exploit, a number of biofortified crops have been generated, using transgenic approaches as well as conventional breeding. Bioavailability studies have demonstrated the efficacy of several ‘golden’ crops in maintaining vitamin A status.

Conversion rates of β-carotene from biofortified Golden Rice, maize and cassava into vitamin A are high, suggesting that these staple crops can have a large nutritional impact. Actually, some of the most extreme cases (Golden canola, Golden tomatoes II) contain extremely high doses of β-carotene, suggesting that they should be treated as food supplements, rather than as foods per se.

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A major problem with biofortified transgenic crops is their public acceptance and the lengthy regulatory process needed before they get clearance for cultivation and human consumption. On the other hand, the long and complicated breeding cycles, or the lack of high β-carotene germplasm, in some crops (bananas, potatoes, wheat, rice), make conventional breeding approaches impractical.

The development of new plant breeding techniques like cisgenesis or intragenesis can accelerate the transfer of ‘golden’ traits from sexually compatible germplasm to elite varieties in crops, like banana or cassava, for which traditional breeding is time-consuming.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Provitamin A biofortification of crop plants: a gold rush with many miners

For more background on the Genetic Literacy Project, read GLP on Wikipedia

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