Colombia Welcomes First Biofortified Zinc Rice Variety
December 8, 2021

Fedearroz BioZn035, the first biofortified zinc rice for Colombia, was released in October 2021. It is expected to generate strong demand in rural markets given its health benefits. Rice is a significant part of Colombia’s economy and Colombians’ diets, making it a great opportunity to improve nutrition. 

Zinc rice is targeted in particular for children; according to the National Survey on Nutrition (Encuesta Nacional de la Situación Nutricional), 43 percent of children between the ages of 1 to 4 suffer from zinc deficiency, while 62 percent suffer from anemia.  

According to the HarvestPlus Biofortification Priority Index (BPI), investments in zinc-biofortified crops are likely to have the most impact in the Caribbean region. That’s why HarvestPlus led the creation of an interdisciplinary alliance between scientific, trade ,and governmental institutions for agronomic crop management and proper processing of rice to ensure a market for the new biofortified zinc rice variety in rural and urban areas of the Caribbean region.

Between 2018 and 2020, a joint effort to develop zinc rice for the region was led by HarvestPlus, La Federación Nacional de Arroceros - Fondo Nacional del Arroz (FEDEARROZ-FNA), la Universidad de Córdoba, La Fundación Canal del Dique - COMPAS, the Center for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research for Development (CIRAD) and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT. The national release process allowed the detection of a crop candidate with good competitiveness due to its tolerance to the main pests and diseases of the region, such as virus de la hoja blanca (VHB) and rice blast (Pyricularia grisea)

This new zinc rice variety achieves yields of over 5 tons per hectare in both planting seasons; It meets industrial quality standards with a yield of non-broken “head” rice after milling similar of 60 percent, similar to non-biofortified rice , and presents cooking quality with amylose contents of over 32 percent, a long grain and a high whiteness index. HarvestPlus researchers evaluated the acceptance of the material with 146 participants of the region during the national release process, and the results show that Fedearroz BIOZn035 was selected by consumers as the most desirable variety among the ones evaluated due its flavor, color and texture.

A 100 gram (g) portion of Fedearroz BioZn035 rice contains up to 2.6 milligrams of zinc and can be considered as an “excellent source” of zinc, providing more than 20 percent of the estimated average requirement (EAR)** for zinc in Colombia. Daily per capita consumption of 112 g *** of zinc rice (approx. half a cup of cooked rice), would provide up to 1.6 times more zinc than commercial rice.

This new biofortified zinc rice is the third biofortified zinc rice variety produced in Latin America, joining the 13 zinc rice varieties released globally so far through HarvestPlus in Asia. 

Watch the launch event for zinc rice in Colombia on the Facebook account of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.

* The acceptance of zinc biofortified rice in Latin America: A consumer sensory study and grain quality characterization Woods BJ, Gallego-Castillo S, Talsma EF, Álvarez D (2020) The acceptance of zinc biofortified rice in Latin America: A consumer sensory study and grain quality characterization. PLOS ONE 15(11): e0242202. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0242202

** Resolution 810/2021, Ministry of Health and Social Protection (Colombia)

*** Encuesta Nacional de la Situación Nutricional en Colombia (ENSIN, 2015)

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