Sufferers of malnutrition in the global south could soon find help from an unlikely source: a humble potato, genetically tweaked to provide substantial doses of vitamins A and E, both crucial nutrients for health. Dubbed the “golden potato,” boosted levels of provitamin A carotenoids are converted into vitamin A by digestive enzymes when eaten. The potato was genetically engineered in Italy using a technique called biofortification. It was created in a lab in Italy and studied at Ohio State University, is the most recent staple crop to be genetically transformed into a colorful superfood, joining such creations as antioxidant-rich purple rice and beta-carotene-enhanced golden rice.
A single serving of the golden potato could provide up to 42 percent of a child’s recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 34 percent of their recommended vitamin E intake, according to a recent study co-led by researchers at Ohio State, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy, and Sustainable Development (ENEA) in Rome, and the Italian Council for Agricultural Research and Economics.
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children, and is also key for growth, immunity, organ development, and reproductive health. Vitamin E protects against oxidative stress and inflammation, conditions that are associated with damage to nerves, muscles, vision, and the immune system. “More than 800,000 people depend on the potato as their main source of energy and many of these individuals are not consuming adequate amounts of these vital nutrients,” said Failla in a statement.
The potato was genetically engineered in Italy using a technique called biofortification. “Carotenoid biofortification has proven itself with ‘golden’ rice and maize,” said Giovanni Giuliano, coordinator of the studies from ENEA. “Potato was the third crop to join this group.” More