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Could GM Crops Help Fight Spina Bifida?

Could GM Crops Help Fight Spina Bifida?

30 April 2015

GLOBAL - Research published in the International Journal of Biotechnology suggests that the bio-fortification of rice with a gene to produce more folate (vitamin B9) could significantly reduce the risk of birth defects, such as spina bifida and other neural tube defect conditions, caused by deficiency of this nutrient.

The first commercially available GM crop was the FLAVR SAVR tomato in 1994 but by 2012 some 170 million hectares of GM crops were being grown worldwide in 28 countries by 17 million farmers.

There are various crop plants being developed that are enriched in iron and zinc, vitamin A and other nutrients.

Two well-known GM rice crops that were designed to improve nutrition levels in the food are in development.

The first, so-called Golden rice, is an entirely safe, pro-vitamin A enriched rice and will be introduced soon with the potential to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children who might otherwise die of malnutrition.

By contrast, folate biofortified rice (FBR) is still at the laboratory phase of development, although proof-of-concept has been well established.

Hans De Steur and colleagues at Ghent University, Belgium and Liaoning Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China, suggest that in regions of high folate-deficiency risk, such as Balrampur (India) and Shanxi (China) there are many years lost of healthy life because of a lack of this vitamin.

About 50 per cent to 70 per cent and up to 85 per cent of all neural tube defects arise because of maternal folate deficiency.

TheCropSite News Desk

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