Bangladesh soon to become first to cultivate golden rice

Bangladesh soon sets to become the planet’s first country to cultivate golden rice. After a regulatory approval process lasting two years, Bangladesh is likely to see the green-light soon for the cultivation of golden rice, a genetically modified (GM) crop that could help prevent childhood blindness and deaths in the developing world.

The announcement was first stated by Nobel Laureate Richard John Roberts at a regional seminar in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. He had an impromptu meeting with the ministers of environment and agriculture last month. If Bangladesh becomes successful in cultivating golden rice, it will be the first approval in a country where the rice is sorely required and this will make a turning point in a long-running battle in the agricultural development.

“It is really important to say we got this over the line,” says Johnathan Napier, a plant biotechnologist at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, UK, who was not involved in the crop’s development, as reported by Science Mag. He says approval would show that agricultural biotechnology can be successfully developed by publicly funded research centers for the public good. Still, environmental groups haven’t dropped their opposition—and the first harvest isn’t expected until at least 2021. And more research will be needed to show the extent of real-world benefits from golden rice.

The regulators in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have approved golden rice for consumption in the last two years. But these countries have no plans to cultivate golden rice. On the other hand, the golden rice under review in Bangladesh was created at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Philippines. Researchers bred the beta-carotene genes into a rice variety named dhan 29, which is grown widely during the dry season in Bangladesh and contributes about 14 percent of the national harvest. In tests of dhan 29 golden rice at multiple locations, researchers at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute in Gazipur found no new farming challenges and no significant differences in quality—except for the presence of vitamin A.

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