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Crop Biotech Update

Nutritional Evaluation of GM Rice Expressing Human Lactoferrin Gene

January 21, 2011

Several rice varieties have been genetically modified (GM) to fight iron-deficiency anemia. Zhejian University in China developed a new strain of transgenic rice with human lactoferrin gene (hLF rice) which codes for the production of lactoferrin, a protein naturally present in breast milk. Lactoferrin possesses various biological functions, including roles in iron metabolism, cell proliferation and differentiation, and antibacterial, antiviral, and antiparasitic activity. Scientist Yichun Hu and colleagues at the National Institute for Nutrition and Food Safety evaluated the nutrition quality of this GM rice based on its components, digestibility in pigs, protein availability in rats, and  protein quality based on both the amino acid requirements of humans and their ability to digest it.

As expected, the iron content of hLF rice is higher than the parental rice Xiuschui 101. The expression of hLF did not affect the digestibility of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and crude fiber. The protein efficiency ratio (the ability to be absorbed by the body and convert into usable protein) of hLF rice is significantly higher than the parental rice. Thus, the nutritional quality of hLF rice is better than the parental rice and it could be a superior strain based on the protein composition of the grain.

Subscribers of the Journal of Cereal Science can read the research article at