Saturday, January 19, 2008

Scientists boost vitamin A in corn

Commentary to follow the excerpt:

U.S. scientists have developed a way to breed corn that can boost the vitamin A it gives people who eat it -- a potentially important advance for regions of the world burdened by vitamin A deficiencies.

Vitamin A deficiency is an important cause of eye disease and other health problems in developing countries.

Corn, also known as maize, is the dominant subsistence crop in much of Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 30 percent of children under age 5 are vitamin A deficient.

Scientists want to come up with ways to increase -- or "bio-fortify" -- levels of specific nutrients in crops like corn. Corn has precursors to vitamin A -- compounds called "provitamins" including beta-carotene -- which the body uses to make vitamin A.

Really, why should we even bother with otherwise worthwhile efforts like this? In their pandering, federal and state elected officials seem obsessed with shoving more and more of the corn harvests towards fuel production. The scientists might as well focus their efforts on fortifying other crops that our elected officials aren't short sightedly trying to steal from hungry mouths in order to feed the ethanol industry while enriching corn farmers.

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