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'Biofortifying' one of the world's primary foods
Date:11/19/2007

HANOVER, NH The advent of the cultivation of grains was a boon to humankind, giving humans a type of food that could be stored long term and would sustain them through drought and famine. Grains, however, lack many of the nutrients needed to sustain life.

A new research project co-led by Mary Lou Guerinot, the Ronald and Deborah Harris Professor in the Biological Sciences, is aimed at making rice which supplies an estimated quarter of the calories humans consume each day a more nutritious food source.

Guerinot is the projects a co-principal investigator. David Salt, a horticulture professor at Purdue University, is the principal investigator; and Shannon Pinson, a research geneticist at Texas A&M University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is co-principal investigator.

Some food is fortified with nutrients when its processed, but very little of that food ever reaches the worlds poor. By contrast, Guerinot and her colleagues want to find genes that help the plants take up more essential nutrients from their environment as they grow. This makes for not only a more nutritious food source but also a healthier and more resilient plant. We feel biofortification is the way to go, she said. Rather than add nutrients to the food after its grown, wed like them to enter the food as it grows.

Funded by a four-year, $5.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the group will first analyze some 1,800 different rice varieties for the presence of 18 elements, including those helpful to humans, such as iron, zinc, potassium, and manganese, and such harmful trace elements as arsenic, cadmium, and lead. They will make this information freely available to the research community.

The bulk of the research, however, will be a painstaking study of the varieties that are highest in iron and zinc, to identify the genes that are responsible for the uptake and storage of those elements. The group is focusing on these ele
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Contact: Rebecca Bailey
rebecca.a.bailey@dartmouth.edu
603-646-3661
Dartmouth College
Source:Eurekalert

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