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Transgenic Rise with Reduced Arsenic

Transgenic Rise with Reduced Arsenic

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GS 3 || Science & Technology  ||Biotechnology ||Agriculture & Biotechnology

Why in NEWS

  • Arsenic(harmful chemical element having atomic no :33 , ) accumulation in rice grains is one of the serious agricultural issues in India.
  • IARC(International Agency For Research on Cancer ) have told Arsenic as Carcinogenic(causing cancer)
  • Arsenic is bound in two ways organic and inorganic
  • Organic arsenic (Plant /Animal tissues )is the kind that is relatively safe.
  • Inorganic arsenic(soil etc) is an environmental toxin, found as a contaminant in rice and drinking water.

Why Is Arsenic Found in Rice?

Rice efficiently absorbs arsenic from irrigation water, soil and even cooking water. Some of that arsenic is of natural origin, but pollution is often responsible for higher levels.

  • From groundwater, arsenic finds its way into wells and other water supplies that may be used for crop irrigation and cooking.
  • Paddy rice is particularly susceptible to arsenic contamination, for three reasons:
  • It is grown in flooded fields (paddy fields) that require high quantities of irrigation water. In many areas, this irrigation water is contaminated with arsenic.
  • Arsenic may accumulate in the soil of paddy fields, worsening the problem.
  • Rice absorbs more arsenic from water and soil compared to other common food crops.
  • To address this, researchers at Lucknow-based CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute have developed transgenic ( transferred from one organism to another ) rice by inserting a novel fungal gene, which results in reduced arsenic accumulation in rice grain.

WaarsM Gene

  • Researchers have cloned Arsenic methyltransferase (WaarsM) gene from a soil fungus, Westerdykellaaurantiaca.
  • They inserted the same into the rice genome with the help of Agrobacterium tumefaciensa soil bacterium which has natural ability to alter the plant’s genetic makeup.
  • The newly developed transgenic rice along with normal rice was then treated with arsenic.
  • Researchers found that the resulting transgenic plant acquired the potential for methylating(addig methyle) inorganic arsenic to a variety of harmless organic species, including volatile arsenicals.
  • This could be potential strategy for developing transgenic rice capable of low arsenic accumulation not only in grain but also in straw and feed which are used for livestock.

Benefits Of This GM

  • The genetic modification of rice grain can be applied to develop practices to decrease accumulation of arsenic by molecular breeding, gene editing or transgenic approaches.
  • As large numbers of people are affected by arsenic toxicity, it is imperative to develop rice with lesser arsenic content and high yield.
  • Arsenic contamination is a serious concern for the millions of people who rely on rice as their staple food.
  • Young children are also at risk if rice-based products make up a large part of their diet.