According to the recent reports, it has been revealed by a senior official that the city-based agricultural research organisation MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) has reached a major milestone towards the development of iron and zinc biofortified rice. It has been explained that after systematic and elaborate screening of the landraces, it has identified nine varieties that have much higher composition of iron or zinc as compared to conventional rice as stated by Rajalakshmi Swaminathan, Principal Coordinator for Biotechnology, MSSRF. According to her, the next step is to cross these varieties with 4-5 local high yielding rice varieties. However, post-harvest, the rice will be checked for iron and zinc content and also other agronomic characteristics.
Further, in this regards, it has been narrated that biofortification is a means of deliberately increasing the nutrient quality of crops during growth for enhancing the nutrition and health of the population it serves.This is particularly important for micronutrient deficiencies such as Vitamin A, iron and zinc estimated to affect over half the population in the world and is significant in India with the largest number of stunted children in the world. Moreover, the biofortification addresses all three major dimensions of hunger such as calorific, protein, vitamins and mineral deficiencies and can be done through natural selection, conventional breeding or biotechnology approaches. By using the biofortification, the communities can continue with their usual diet having additional nutrients through consuming new varieties which are much more nutritious. Thus, they can be protected from preventable conditions like anaemia, stunting and infectious diseases.
Furthermore, in this aspect, it has been revealed that under the research project funded by the central government's Department of Biotechnology, the team at MSSRF screened 160 rice varieties from Odisha, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and zeroed in on nine varieties that have high iron and zinc content. For three Rabi seasons since 2013 we have raised the nine varieties and found the iron and zinc content on the higher side. The crops were raised in the fields in Kalpakkam near here according to the reports.
Further, it has been observed that the crops showed promising results in terms of their potential to serve as a significant tool against malnutrition. There is no genetic modification involved as it was told by Dr Swaminathan. It was also described that the normal rice has iron concentration of about 6-8 ppm, while some of the varieties screened have a high as 21 ppm iron concentration.Similarly for zinc, normal rice has zinc concentration of about 14 ppm while some of the identified varieties have concentration as high as 35 ppm. According to objective of the project, the next phase will be in association with other public research institutes. By the end of the year we will proceed with the collaborative approach with the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, as she added.