WHO: Tot 500.000 kinderen worden ieder jaar blind omwille van vit A deficiëntie, de helft sterft.

This young boy has typical stigmata of severe vitamin A deficiency: Bitot's spot OD; and keratomalacia which led to a staphylomatous, xerotic cornea OS.

Vitamine A deficiëntie is in grote delen van de derde wereld nog steeds een oorzaak van enorm veel leed. Jammergenoeg zijn het dan nog vaak kinderen die hierdoor getroffen worden. Cijfers van het WHO wijzen er nogmaals op dat jaarlijks enorm veel mensen sterven aan een tekort aan deze belangrijke vitamine. 

Zogeheten “silver bullets” in de bestrijding van Vit A deficiëntie zijn er jammergenoeg niet. Het streven zou een voor iedereen toegankelijk en gevarieerd dieet moeten zijn, maar zolang we daar niet zijn is het aangewezen supplementen toe te voegen of aan fortificatie te doen. Het verrijken van stapelvoedsel is een bewezen en nog steeds vaak gebruikte methode om tekorten aan bepaalde nutriënten weg te werken, zelfs in gebieden waar een gevarieerd dieet vanzelfsprekend is. 

In de bestrijding van vitamine A deficiëntie zou gouden rijst een belangrijk hulpmiddel kunnen zijn. Natuurlijk geen heiligmakende oplossing, niet in het minst omdat in vele gebieden waar vitamine A deficiëntie heerst, rijst een beperkte tot geen rol speelt in het dagelijkse dieet. Voor deze gebieden worden ook andere stapelgewassen, zoals bv. cassava verrijkt met vitamine A. Maar waar wel rijst gegeten wordt, kan het een enorm verschil maken. Amper 100-150 gr (gekookte) rijst per dag bevat 60% van de vit A behoefte voor kinderen tussen 6-8 jaar.

Jammergenoeg voeren heel wat NGOs, met Greenpeace op kop, een ideologische hetze tegen gouden rijst die er samen met een absurd ggo-specifiek regularisatieproces voor zorgden dat dit project reeds meer dan tien jaar vertraging opliep. Zelfs met enorm conservatieve schattingen kostte deze vertraging het leven van tienduizenden tot honderdduizenden kinderen. Is deze ideologische strijd tegen 1 welbepaalde veredelingstechniek echt het leven van honderdduizenden kinderen waard?

Veel meer info over het gouden rijst project via goldenrice.org.

Genetic improvement of grass pea (Lathyrus sativus) in Ethiopia: an unfulfilled promise

Abstract

Grass pea (Lathyrus sativus L.) is an important crop in Ethiopia. Its vital importance in the Ethiopian agriculture emanates from its resistance to drought, salinity, waterlogging and low soil fertility. However, low levels of the amino acids methionine and tryptophan and the presence of the neurotoxin β-N-oxalyl-L-α,β-diaminopropanoic acid (ODAP) in the seeds are the major limitations of the crop. Genetic improvement of grass pea in Ethiopia has been started in the 1960s at Holetta Agricultural Research Center. The major objectives of the grass pea research were to develop and promote high-yielding cultivars with low ODAP content coupled with improved management production packages. However, the 50 years of on-station and on-farm research was not successful in producing outstanding varieties with the desired traits. Compared to other grain legumes, the poor success of varietal development endeavours within the context of grass pea improvement philosophy is typically related to the failure of the conventional breeding approach to fix a zero or low ODAP content because this trait is highly influenced by climatic and edaphic environment.

The Way Forward

Modern approaches such as genetic transformation of grass pea with plant-derived genes may prove to be valuable tools for boosting seed protein quality, and this needs to be explored. A reproducible regeneration protocol has been developed for grass pea. However, a reliable and efficient genetic transformation system needs to be developed. Moreover, the focus now should not be on lowering the ODAP content; rather, it should be on boosting seed contents of sulphur-containing essential amino acids like methionine and cysteine in grass pea genotypes.

Het volledige artikel vind je hier.

Vitamin A enhanced cassavas save Nigeria

Vitamin A enhanced cassava could help Nigeria reduce economic losses in GDP, that are currently estimated to be at $1.5 billion, says Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga.

“But more than economic savings, it will also improve the nutrition of women and children who are the most vulnerable,” said Sanginga at the public presentation of pro-vitamin A varieties by the Nigerian government in Umudike last weekend.

Dit proces was 10 jaar geleden reeds mogelijk in Azië, waar vit A deficiëntie ook een groot probleem is. De introductie van een vit A verrijkte rijstsoort, Golden Rice, werd echter tegengewerkt door belangengroepen als Greenpeace. Golden Rice zal nu toch uiteindelijk in 2013 gelanceerd worden in de Filipijnen. De economische en menselijk kost die deze vertragingsmanoeuvres met zich meebrachten zullen pas in de komende jaren duidelijk worden.

Volledige artikel lees je hier.

Why oranges may bring Europe round to GM

Studies show that the juice from blood oranges gives additional health benefits

Bloodier oranges, more purple tomatoes, fishier vegetable oils and zinc-rich rice. Those are some of the latest genetic modification projects under way in UK plant laboratories, aimed at producing healthier food – and a response to those who say that the GM foods commercialised so far may benefit farmers but offer nothing to consumers.

The GM orange project follows nutritional research showing that juice from blood oranges gives additional health benefits compared with ordinary “blond” orange juice. One study, for instance, found that when a “full English” fried breakfast was washed down with a glass of blood orange juice this reduced the harmful cardiovascular effects of the fatty food.

Het volledige artikel vind je hier.

Appels rijk aan anthocyanen

Wetenschappers uit Nieuw-Zeeland slaagden erin de genen te isoleren die instaan voor de aanmaak van anthocyanen die we in sommige wilde, maar niet voor consumptie geschikte, appel variëteiten vinden en brachten die tot overexpressie (zoals in de wilde variëteiten) in een voor consumptie geschikte appel. Hoe ze daarvoor te werk gingen zie je in volgend filmpje.

Voor meer info en wat achtergrond bij dit verboden fruit zie volgend artikel.

Potential impact and cost-effectiveness of multi-biofortified rice in China

Abstract

Biofortification, that is, improving the micronutrient content of staple foods through crop breeding, could be a pro-poor, pro-rural, agriculture-based intervention to reduce the health burden of micronutrient malnutrition. While the potential cost-effectiveness of crops biofortified with single micronutrients was shown in previous research, poor people often suffer from multiple micronutrient deficiencies, which should be accounted for in biofortification initiatives. This study is the first to estimate the potential health benefits and cost-effectiveness of multi-biofortification. Rice with enhanced provitamin A, zinc, iron and folate concentrations is used as a concrete example. The research is conducted for China, the largest rice producer in the world, where micronutrient malnutrition remains a major public health problem. Using the DALY (disability-adjusted life year) framework, the current annual health burden of the four micronutrient deficiencies in China is estimated at 10.6 million DALYs. Introducing multi-biofortified rice could lower this burden by up to 46%. Given the large positive health impact and low recurrent costs of multi-biofortification, this intervention could be very cost effective: under optimistic assumptions, the cost per DALY saved would be around US$ 2; it would stay below US$ 10 even under pessimistic assumptions. Continue reading

Nutritional enhancement of rice for human health: The contribution of biotechnology

Abstract

Micronutrient malnutrition is widespread, especially in poor populations across the globe where daily caloric intake is confined mainly to staple cereals. Rice, which is a staple food for over half of the world’s population, is low in bioavailable micronutrients required for the daily diet. Improvements of the plant-based diets are therefore critical and of high economic value in order to achieve a healthy nutrition of a large segment of the human population. Rice grain biofortification has emerged as a strategic priority for alleviation of micronutrient malnutrition. Nutritional enhancement of crops through conventional breeding is often limited by the low genetic variability for required dietary micronutrient levels. In this case, biotechnology strategies offer effective and efficient perspectives. In this review, we discuss genetic engineering approaches that have been successful in the nutritional enhancement of rice endosperm. These advancements will make substantial contributions to crop improvement and human nutrition. Their practical application, however, also demands visionary changes in regulatory policies and a broader consumer acceptance.

Wetenschappelijk artikel hier.

The Case for Biofortification

Modern consumers enjoy something that humans throughout history never have: we can walk into a grocery store and, if we choose wisely, leave with food that maximizes our health. Much maligned as the industrial food system has been, it’s made accessible a broad diversity of beneficial foods that, consumed regularly, prevent disease and enhance the quality of life. The fact that one is able to eat a cornucopia of “superfoods”–blueberries, bananas, kale, lentils, quinoa, and avocados–on a daily basis is an under-appreciated wonder of globalization and world trade.

But the vast majority of the developing world lacks access to this abundance. In fact, billions of people living in developing countries are dependent on a single staple crop for their sustenance. In sub-Saharan Africa, 250 million people eat cassava as their primary food source; over half the world depends on rice for 80% of their calories; wheat accounts for 20% of the world’s food energy intake. This narrow dependence might meet baseline caloric needs, but it’s a nutritional disaster.

Volledig artikel vind je hier.

Nigeria releases vitamin A cassava to improve public health for millions

Niet enkel rijst wordt veredeld om hogere concentraties vit A te bevatten. In december werden 3 nieuwe maniok-variëten voorgesteld die veredeld werden om een hogere vit A concentratie te hebben, bijgevolg hebben deze natuurlijk ook een geel kleurtje…

Online artikel hier.

Benefits of genetically modified crops for the poor: household income, nutrition, and health

The potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops on income, poverty and nutrition in developing countries continue to be the subject of public controversy. Here, a review of the evidence is given. As an example of a first-generation GM technology, the effects of insect-resistant Bt cotton are analysed. Bt cotton has already been adopted by millions of small-scale farmers, in India, China, and South Africa among others. On average, farmers benefit from insecticide savings, higher effective yields and sizeable income gains. Insights from India suggest that Bt cotton is employment generating and poverty reducing. As an example of a second-generation technology, the likely impacts of beta-carotene-rich Golden Rice are analysed from anex ante perspective. Vitamin A deficiency is a serious nutritional problem, causing multiple adverse health outcomes. Simulations for India show that Golden Rice could reduce related health problems significantly, preventing up to 40,000 child deaths every year. These examples clearly demonstrate that GM crops can contribute to poverty reduction and food security in developing countries. To realise such social benefits on a larger scale requires more public support for research targeted to the poor, as well as more efficient regulatory and technology delivery systems.

Online artikel hier.