Malnutrition hinders overall health status of women and young children and can cause permanent problems with physical and mental development. About 56.2 percent of women are suffering from anaemia and about 45 percent of the children under the age of 0-3 years are reported as under-weight. Supplementation of nutrients through ‘nutritive pills’ and ‘specialty foods’ is cost-intensive, not-affordable and unsustainable especially for poor women and children in rural and urban households.
Biofortification of staple food crops such as rice with enriched nutrients through genetic improvement will make this affordable and ensure their nutritional requirements. Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a Department of Biotechnology Enterprise of Government of India has launched an initiative, “All Children Thriving” under Grand Challenges Program in collaboration with Gates Foundation, USAID and Welcome Trust to alleviate malnutrition among women and children using vaccines, drugs and agricultural interventions.
An innovative research program proposed by Centre for Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore along with Home Science College and Research Institute, Madurai (a constituent college of TNAU) and University of California Davis, USA on improving nutrition of women and children through nutrient rich therapeutic rice has been selected for financial support of about Rs. 1.5 crores.
In this initiative, efforts will be taken to test the use of improved high yielding rice line rich in nutritive and therapeutic values. Bioavailability of flavonoids, lutein, calcium, iron and zinc content of improved rice line and glycemic index would be assessed.