TNAU Scientist Researching on Ways to Fortifiy Rice with Zinc and IronHome

Coimbatore: scientists at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) are looking for ways to make rice richer in zinc and iron, since micro nutrition deficiency is slowly becoming rampant in both rural and urban areas. Scientist have begun researching ways to bio-fortify the two minerals in rice, considered the staple food across South India. This year at least two varieties are likely to be readied for testing across the country.

TNAU's paddy breeding station has begun breeding a few new varieties of rice. These varieties are expected to contain four to five times the normal content of iron and double the content of zinc.

Professor and project director of Centre for Molecular Breeding, S Robin, said "Besides, starch, protein and vitamins, polished rice contains around 2 to 4 ppm (parts per million) of iron and 8 ppm of zinc."

He also says "We are targeting raising mineral content of polished rice to 10 to 12 ppm of iron and 24 ppm of zinc." If they are successful, polished rice will contain more minerals than even what is found in brown rice currently-8 to 10 ppm of iron and 12 ppm of zinc.

Iron and zinc deficiencies in our diet can often cause a host of health complications like anemia, low immunity, hair fall, nail breakage and even mental lethargy. Though meat, especially sea food, is a rich source of zinc and iron, with a sizeable population in the region being vegetarian, mineral deficiencies are rampant say both endocrinologists and dermatologists.

Robin said, "This is why we came up with the idea of fortifying rice, which is a staple food and we decided to ensure that even milled rice will have these minerals, because most of the population consumes only milled rice, even though milling (polishing) removes most of its nutrients. We studied and screened almost 200 varieties of rice last year."