In an exciting new development for the rice industry in Asia, the first research samples of pro-Vitamin A enriched 'Golden Rice' have arrived in the region. The genetically modified rice, which contains beta-carotene and other carotenoids, arrived at the Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on Friday, January 19, 2001

IRRI scientists will now begin work that will play a key role in an international effort to further investigate the safety and utility of 'Golden Rice' in combating Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD), which is responsible for 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness and 1-2 million deaths worldwide each year.

IRRI's Director-General, Dr Ronald P. Cantrell said, "The arrival of these initial samples at IRRI is a very significant step and allows us to finally start on the required testing processes using local rice varieties. IRRI expects to play a major role in the ongoing 'Golden Rice" research effort and its eventual introduction to the world's millions of poor rice farmers and consumers."

The delivery of 'Golden Rice' from the inventors' laboratories in Europe was possible as a result of the donation of intellectual property licences from; Syngenta Seeds AG, Syngenta Ltd, Bayer AG, Monsanto Company Inc., Orynova BV, and Zeneca Mogen BV. Each company has licensed free-of-charge technology used in the research that led to the 'Golden Rice' invention. Subject to further research, initially in the developing countries of Asia, as well as local regulatory clearances, 'Golden Rice' can then be made available free-of-charge for humanitarian uses in any developing nation.

Professor Ingo Potrykus, co-inventor of 'Golden Rice', said, "Vitamin A Deficiency remains a very important health problem which no current remedy completely addresses. Peter Beyer and I are very pleased that these companies have provided essential support to assist our long held intent of donating this potentially beneficial invention to those countries where Vitamin A Deficiency causes hundreds of thousands of cases of irreversible blindness every year ".

In order to further expedite the introduction of 'Golden Rice' to developing countries, a 'Humanitarian Board' has been established, comprised of a number of public and private sector organizations. The Humanitarian Board has four principal aims:

to support the inventors in making 'Golden Rice' freely available to those that need it, consistent with the highest standards of safety assessment

to ensure the proper investigation of 'Golden Rice' as one potential solution to Vitamin A Deficiency

to support individual developing countries and their national research institutes as they assess their interest in 'Golden Rice'

to facilitate information sharing between 'Golden Rice' projects in different parts of the world.

The Humanitarian Board is chaired by Professor Potrykus and also includes his co-inventor of 'Golden Rice', Professor Peter Beyer. Other members of the Board are; Dr Ronnie Coffman, Cornell University; Dr Adrian Dubock, Syngenta AG (Secretary); Dr William Padolina, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI); Dr Ashok Seth, Rural Development Unit, South Asia Region of the World Bank; and Dr Gary Toenniessen, Director of Food Security at the Rockefeller Foundation. Dr Katharina Jenny, Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology, ETH, Zurich, is an observer to the Board. Each individual on the Humanitarian Board retains his/her independent advisory status.

This is an exciting new type of public-private sector collaboration, formed specifically to further an important scientific breakthrough in the 'development' field.

Licences for further development will now be granted to other public sector research institutes. The technology can then be transferred to local rice varieties for biosafety and efficacy testing which is expected to take at least another four years.

Contacts

Humanitarian Board:
Professor Ingo Potrykus, Tel: + 41 61 841 2412 (potrykus@active.ch)

International Rice Research Institute:
Duncan MacIntosh, Tel: +63 2845 0563 (d.macintosh@cgiar.org)

Rockefeller Foundation:
George Soule, Tel: +1 212 852 8456 (gsoule@rockfound.org)

Syngenta Ltd:
Ian Weatherhead, Tel: +44 1428 657096 (ian.weatherhead@syngenta.com)