As an energy source packed with vitamins and nutrients, rice serves as the main source of food and nutrition for a majority of the world’s population. Brown unmilled rice contains the most nutritional and mineral value, whereas white rice loses much of its nutritional value after being refined.
The USDA plans to address this by researching different strands and genes of rice in order to breed a new strand of white rice that would “hold high concentrations of 14 essential minerals (including zinc, iron and calcium) in the grains instead of in the husk”. Their research is focused on the use of “molecular marker data for use in quickly identifying the high-mineral plants without having to grow them to maturity.”
Up to 1,643 types of rice from around the world have been tested, and “127 gene locations in 40 chromosome regions that indicate high concentrations of minerals” have been identified. The first method for creating this new strain of rice that comes to mind would be genetic engineering. However, it is simpler and more accessible to farmers around the world if the rice is created through reproducing plants with the genes they find desirable.
Helping breeders grow this rice could decrease malnutrition around the world, and refraining from genetic modification would allow the rice to be distributed (exported or imported) without fear of rejection from those who are against GMO foods. This new strain of rice could solve all kinds of food-related issues surrounding poverty and hunger globally, as well as introduce a healthier option for those in Western countries.
– Sarah Rybak