16 May 2000
GM rice deal for Third World

THIRD-WORLD farmers will have free access to genetically modified rice designed to combat Vitamin A blindness under a deal between scientists and a biotech company.

The agreement, due to be announced on Tuesday (16 May), was struck between Professor Ingo Potrykus, the inventor of “golden rice” and AstraZeneca, reports the Financial Times.

AstraZeneca will buys the commercial rights to golden rice, then license non-commercial activities back to the inventors.

The Anglo-Swedish company will undertake to help improve the rice, deal with patenting issues, and the costly testing and regulatory process.

The inventors will distribute free rice to farmers in poor countries through government run institutions.

Local farmers can earn an annual US$10,000 without royalties.

In return, AstraZeneca will commercialise the rice for the developed world as a functional food for an increasingly health-conscious population.

“We need to find an alliance between business on one hand and research on the other, said Prof Potrykus .

“I hope this example will make other companies think in the same way.”

TheFT says this is the latest move by the biotech industry to improve its image at a time of growing hostility towards genetic engineering.

  • Financial Times 16/05/2000 page 14