A new variety of corn provides higher quality protein than common types and could greatly help many of the world's undernourished people, a National Research Council committee says.

The "quality-protein maize" looks and tastes like common corn but is nearly as good a protein source as skim milk, the committee said.Corn is a dietary staple for some 200 million people, including maybe half the world's undernourished population. In some parts of Latin America and Africa, it is the primary or sole protein source for young children.

But protein in traditional corn does not contain enough of two essential amino acids, lysine and tryptophan. So corn itself is not enough for acceptable growth and health, especially in children, the sick, and pregnant and lactating women, the council said in a statement.

The new corn variety was developed at Mexico's International Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat. The committee report expressed confidence that it will be grown worldwide before the turn of the century.