Phil Brasher of the Des Moines Register reports on newly engineered corn that researchers say “opens the way for the development of nutritionally complete” grains. African lines of white corn have been engineered by scientists in Spain to provide high levels of beta carotene, a key source of vitamin A, and significant levels of vitamin C and folate. The corn, which scientists believe could alleviate malnutrition in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, has been funded through the Spanish government and a European Union program.
Reports Brasher, “Some 250 million preschool children are deficient in vitamin A, and as many as 500,000 kids go blind each year for lack of the nutrient, according to the World Health Organization. The Rockefeller Foundation is pushing ahead with an effort to produce large amounts of a vitamin A-enriched rice, known as Golden Rice. At the World Food Prize’s Borlaug Dialogue symposium last fall, the foundation’s president, Judith Rodin, said the rice could ‘save almost 3 million children’s lives, while nourishing as many as 300 million more.’”
Greg Jaffe, a specialist in agricultural biotechnology with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group in Washington, adds, “We have so many millions of people around the world who have diets that are less than ideal. We should be using all the tools available to try to improve those diets.”
“There is strong justification for trying to use technology of this sort” to address malnutrition, Stephen Howell, director of Iowa State University’s Plant Sciences Institute, said.