In response to the alarm sounded by the World Health Organization,
which estimates some 2 billion people around the world are iron-deficient, scientists in Switzerland have unveiled a new species of rice that has six times more iron than normal.
The work was conducted at ETH, a well-known technical university in Zurich, where researchers have succeeded in increasing the iron content in polished rice by transferring two plant genes into an existing rice variety.
The authors of the study say the prototypes have already been shown to grow normally in the greenhouse conditions without causing any negative effects on the environment, as iron is one of the most abundant metallic elements in soil.
Wilhelm Gruissem, one of the researchers on the team, says the group will now have to test whether the rice plants also perform well in the field.
Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, difficulty metabolizing harmful substances, and if not remedied may lead to anemia. In addition to iron-enriched foods, nutritional supplements are also a good way to make up for possible deficiency.
The work was published in an online edition of Plant Biotechnology Journal.