Dhaka: Bangladesh is conducting trials of what scientists claim is the world`s first-ever vitamin A-rich rice.
The Golden Rice, which is a genetically engineered variety, will go through greenhouse and field tests before advancing into production phase.
If everything goes well, Bangladesh, within 5 years, will be able to fight vitamin A deficiency in expecting mothers and children through the most-consumed food item.
The deficiency causes blindness and child death in acute cases, The Daily Star said Wednesday quoting scientists.
The country`s most productive rice variety, BRRI Dhan 29, engineered at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines with beta carotene-rich genes from corn was successfully field-tested at the IRRI in February.
This is a big step towards developing Golden Rice, said scientists at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) at Joydebpur.
"This week we are applying for permission to import the beta carotene-rich BRRI Dhan-29 from the IRRI experiment field and make a greenhouse trial at BRRI prior to going for open field trial in Bangladesh," said Alamgir Hossain, principal plant breeder at BRRI.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) global database on vitamin A deficiency, one in every five pre-school children in Bangladesh is vitamin A-deficient, and 23.7 percent of pregnant women are affected by vitamin A deficiency.
Alamgir Hossain told the newspaper that once released commercially, consumption of only 150 gram of Golden Rice a day will supply half of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A for an adult.
This is expected to revolutionise fighting vitamin A-deficiency in the mostly rice-eating Asian countries where the poor have limited access to vitamin A sources other than rice.
The new rice when released for commercial farming in Bangladesh will be of the same price as other rice.
"Golden Rice is a unique type of rice that contains beta carotene, a source of vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. Globally, approximately 670,000 children die every year and another 350,000 go blind because they are vitamin A-deficient," says the IRRI.