Visiting Nobel Laureate Sir Richard John Roberts made the announcement at a regional seminar in Dhaka after he held an impromptu meeting with the ministers of agriculture and environment on Sunday
Bangladesh will take a decision on the release of the world’s first Vitamin-A enriched rice variety by November 15.
Visiting Nobel Laureate Sir Richard John Roberts made the announcement at a regional seminar in Dhaka after he held an impromptu meeting with the ministers of agriculture and environment on Sunday.
Vitamin A enriched rice, popularly known as Golden Rice, has been in the regulatory approval process since November 2017 and the Ministry of Agriculture has long been pushing the Environment Ministry for its seal of approval.
Golden Rice is rich with beta carotene, also known as pro-vitamin A, a substance human bodies can convert to Vitamin A. Both Bangladesh and the Philippines have readied for release of the world’s first Vitamin-A enriched rice varieties, heralding a new era in the fight against Vitamin A deficiency (VAD).
According to the World Health Organization’s global VAD database, one in every five pre-school children in Bangladesh is vitamin A-deficient. Among pregnant women, 23.7% suffer from VAD.
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) says VAD is the main cause of preventable blindness in children, and globally, some 6.7 million children die every year and another 350,000 go blind because they are vitamin A deficient.
Once released, Golden Rice will be the culmination of a long-touted partial remedy for VAD.
Coming to Dhaka to deliver a keynote speech at a ‘Regional Seminar on GMO Crops: Policy and Practices in South Asia’ at North-South University on Sunday, the 1993 Medicine Nobel winner Sir Richard Roberts enquired about the Golden Rice release development with the organizers. That immediately prompted Agriculture Minister Dr Mohammad Abdur Razzaque, who was also present at the seminar, to call up his cabinet colleague Environment Minister Md Shahab Uddin and set up an impromptu meeting.
Several hours later, as Sir Richard Roberts returned to the seminar venue after holding his meeting with the ministers, he spoke at the concluding session and informed that a final decision on Golden Rice will be taken by November 15.
“If Golden Rice is approved here (in Bangladesh) that will be a big message for the whole world, where 3,000 children die each day owing to VAD,” said the English biochemist and molecular biologist credited for developing the mechanism of gene splicing, an important source of protein diversity.