Why WORLD Needs ZINC rich RICE varieties

Monika Mondal
Monika Mondal
Zinc RIce

We are producing a huge amount of food every year, but with each year passing, the amount falls short. This is when a huge percentage of the world is not even getting their basic food requirements of three meals a day. All the purpose of food fails if we cannot draw the nutrition from the food which we need for our survival. The requirements are suffering and the quality also suffers, for which scientists throughout the world are working aggressively. One such important micronutrient is Zinc. 

Micronutrients such as zinc, iron, selenium, and vitamin B12 are important for human health. Zinc is involved in more bodily functions than any other mineral and is thus essential for survival. Zinc deficiency causes stunting and has serious consequences for health, particularly during childhood when zinc requirements are highest.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that zinc deficiency is largely related to inadequate intake or absorption of zinc from the diet, although the excessive loss of zinc from diarrhoea may also contribute.

Within the wide genetic diversity of rice is germplasm that has comparatively higher zinc in the rice grain. This germplasm can be used to breed high-zinc high-yielding rice varieties. With the support of IRRI, the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute was able to develop and release high-zinc rice in Bangladesh.


IRRI is also investigating the bioavailability of zinc in high-zinc rice, in collaboration with institutions from Bangladesh, the University of California-Davis, and other international organizations. IRRI is also leading a collaborative project to develop high-zinc rice for release in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

In 2013, the world's first zinc-rich rice variety BRRI Dhan 62, was released in Bangladesh. BRRI Dhan 62 has 20 to 22 parts per million (ppm) of zinc while the average zinc content of rice is 14 to 16 ppm. The variety was developed using conventional breeding methods by scientists at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) with support from HarvestPlus. The new variety was developed from the zinc-rich rice parental germplasm produced at IRRI.

" The world needs more than it wants, High ZINC, HIGH YIELDING RICE varieties for the betterment of human health and food sufficiency." 

High-Zinc rice could help decrease zinc deficiency. More than 40% of Bangladeshi children under five are stunted while 44% of the same age group is at risk for zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency is a major cause of stunted growth, for lack of development, and for deaths from diarrheal diseases in children. It is predicted that regular consumption of zinc-rich rice could significantly reduce levels of zinc inadequacy in the diets.

The Director-General of BRRI, Jiban K. Biswas, noted that BRRI dhan72 would suit farmers who cultivate three crops a year. “It is a farmer-friendly variety, which takes only 125 days to harvest,” he said. That duration is 20 days less than the most popular non-zinc rice varieties, meaning farmers can plant a short-duration crop before the next rice planting season.

BRRI dhan72 was developed conventionally in a process known as biofortification, and is suitable for the high and medium highlands, particularly for the southern part of the country. It is the third zinc rice variety to be released in Bangladesh. The earlier varieties, BRRI dhan62 (2013) and BRRIdhan64 (2014), were released for the monsoon (Aman) and dry (Boro) seasons, respectively.

A research team from Indira Gandhi Agriculture University (IGAU), Raipur, has developed a first and new rice variety rich in Zinc in India. This new rice variety was named ‘Chhattisgarh Zinc Rice-1’ after a place ‘Chhattisgarh’ in India. Chhattisgarh is dominated by the tribal population where nearly seven lakh children are still malnourished. According to statistics, deficiency of the micronutrients iron, zinc and Vitamin A, in particular, was the reason for malnutrition in 60 to 70% of the population of this region.


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