Zinc-enriched rice in 2 years
Bangladesh is set to release in two years a rice variety enriched with zinc which might effectively fight zinc deficiency that causes physical and mental problems.
Most people in the country suffer from zinc deficiency. Growth of children is hampered and their disease prevention capacity decreases due to such deficiency. Forty-three percent children under five are stunted, 43 percent suffer from underweight and 64 percent suffer from anaemia, experts say.
Scientists conducting a long-running breeding experiment on iron and zinc content in rice have found 12 to 36 milligrams of zinc in rice per kilogram whereas polished rice in Bangladesh generally contains 3 to 4 mg of zinc per kilogram on an average.
“Concentrations of 24 milligrams of zinc a kilogram have been identified in several advanced breeding lines, which are the fast-track breeding lines for developing high-zinc rice variety in Bangladesh,” said Dr Alamgir Hossain, principal scientific officer at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI).
BRRI in cooperation with HarvestPlus, an international crop research organisation, has been conducting the breeding experiment on enhancement of iron and zinc content in rice in Bangladesh since 2005-06.
The progress made in the experiment was revealed yesterday at a national workshop on “Addressing micronutrient malnutrition in Bangladesh: a case of zinc fortified rice”. The two-day workshop jointly organised by HarvestPlus, BRRI and Brac began yesterday at a city hotel.
Alamgir Hossain said, “As per target, at least four to five advanced breeding lines with desirable yield and agronomic traits will be identified leading to release of the rice variety by 2013.”
Addressing the seminar as chief guest, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury said the present government will fully support scientists’ efforts for incorporating zinc in rice if it benefits people.
But nutritional value of the rice variety, its yield level, taste and production cost must be assessed, she said.
“While making new inventions, we must be cautious that we don’t do anything which is harmful to human health,” Matia said.
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council Executive Chairman Dr Wais Kabir said overuse of farmland in the country is causing serious deficiency of micronutrient in land. Developing a rice variety fortified with zinc will therefore be very useful, he added.
Brac Executive Director Mahabub Hossain said an adult man needs 4 mg of zinc a day, an adult woman needs 3 mg, a child needs 1-3 mg, a growing child needs 3-5 mg and an expecting mother needs 3-6 mg.
BRRI Director General Dr Abdul Mannan, ICDDR, B scientist Dr Tahmeed Ahmed and HarvestPlus Bangladesh’s Country Manager Dr Rezaul Karim also spoke.