In New Jersey, Rutgers University scientists found an efficient way to enhance the nutritional value of corn by inserting a bacterial gene that causes it to produce a key nutrient called methionine. The discovery could benefit millions of people in developing countries, such as in South America and Africa, who depend on corn as a staple. It could also significantly reduce worldwide animal feed costs.
Methionine, found in meat, is one of the nine essential amino acids that humans get from food, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It is needed for growth and tissue repair and improves the tone and flexibility of skin and hair, and strengthens nails. The sulfur in methionine protects cells from pollutants, slows cell aging and is essential for absorbing selenium and zinc.
Every year, synthetic methionine worth several billion dollars is added to field corn seed, which lacks the substance in nature.