Researchers from ETH Zurich led by Navreet Bhullar from the Institute of
Molecular Plant Biology have genetically modified (GM) one of the most
commonly grown varieties of rice. The ETH researchers developed rice lines
with iron increases equaling more than 90% of the recommended iron content
and up to 170% of the recommended content for zinc in rice grains.
Bhullar and her research team incorporated a genetic construct that
expresses a combination of three additional genes into the rice plants. One
of the genes facilitates mobilization of iron stored in the plant vacuoles,
another encodes for an iron-storing protein Ferritin, and the third promotes
efficient iron and zinc uptake by the roots. These plants have been tested
in the lab and greenhouse conditions, and will be tested in the field in the
"First we have to confirm that the plants retain similar levels of zinc and
iron in the grains under the field conditions. Once we've done that, we
should assess the bioavailability of these increased nutrients for humans.
It can take years before these modified varieties of rice may reach to the
public," says Bhullar.