A genetically modified corn fortified with three vitamins has been developed by a team of researchers from Spain and Germany, a breakthrough that marks the first time that multiple vitamins have been introduced into a single crop.
The corn sports bright orange kernels, which contain 169 times the normal amount of the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene. It also has six times more ascorbate (Vitamin C) and twice the amount of folate compared to conventional corn varieties.
The scientists, led by Paul Christou from University of Lleida, Spain, believe the multivitamin corn could help improve diets in developing countries. One hundred grams of the transgenic kernels can provide the full recommended daily intake (RDI) of beta-carotene, as the sole source of vitamin A, 20% of the RDI of ascorbate, and an adequate amount of folate. The transgenic corn also produces modest amounts of the antioxidants lutein and lycopene.
The transgenic corn expresses the crtI gene from the plant bacterium Erwinia for increased beta-carotene, dhar gene from rice for increased ascorbate and folE from E. coli for the elevated folate levels. These genes, introduced via the biolistic approach to a popular South African white corn variety, have stayed intact for over five generations.