Genetically modified Golden Rice variety may hit PHL markets by 2023–PhilRice

A farmer in Pangasinan displays threshed rice in this photo.

The Golden Rice project has moved one step forward from getting the Vitamin A-infused staple commercialized but proponents roughly estimate that the commodity would hit the markets not until 2023 or later.

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said the 60-day public comment period for the proposed commercial propagation of Golden Rice has formally commenced.

“Golden Rice has been previously assessed for food safety in five countries, including the Philippines, and we are confident that it will meet the rigorous standards of our regulators,” PhilRice Executive Director Dr. John de Leon said in a news statement issued on November 20.

At a virtual news briefing on Monday, PhilRice Healthier Rice Project Leader Dr. Renante L. Ordonio said everyone has the chance to give their comments to the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) regarding their application for commercial propagation.

The application for commercial propagation is the last stage of the regulatory process for biotechnology crops under the Joint Department Circular 1 of 2016.

However, Ordonio said the vision of Golden Rice hitting the domestic market is far from reality as the crop shall undergo further regulatory processes and approvals, such as variety registration and nutritional test after securing a commercial propagation permit. More so, Ordonio said they accept the fact that the commercial propagation application could also face opposition, thus, dragging the application process further.

But based on their rough estimates, Ordonio said they are hopeful that the Golden Rice would be distributed in the market as early as 2023.

“The reality is that there are oppositions. We used to expect to receive permits as early as possible but it did not happen as the application process dragged on. But we are hopeful that [it will be done by 2023],” he said.

“There are bottlenecks along the way. We still have to conduct surveys in provinces where golden rice will be deployed as well as market surveys and pass nutritional tests by independent bodies,” Ordonio added.

For years, PhilRice and the International Research Rice Institute (IRRI) have been working together to develop and introduce Golden Rice in the Philippines, as a means to combat Vitamin A deficiency.

Golden Rice is a genetically modified rice that contains beta-carotene (a source of vitamin A) and can be grown like ordinary inbred rice, according to PhilRice.

“It is intended to provide 30 percent to 50 percent of the estimated average requirement for Vitamin A of young children. Vitamin A deficiency [VAD] continues to be a significant public health issue affecting almost 17 percent of Filipino children aged five and below,” it said.

“A successful application will enable DA-PhilRice to proceed with the pilot-scale deployment of Golden Rice to selected Philippine communities and lay the groundwork for further research on its impact on vitamin A intake and status,” it added.

PhilRice eyes to conduct its pilot scale deployment of Golden Rice in 7 provinces with high incidence of Vitamin A deficiency in the country with two being in Luzon, another two in Visayas and three in Mindanao, Ordonio added.

Last year, the Philippine government approved the biosafety permit of Golden Rice (GR2E) for food, feed and processing (FFP) use after it concluded that the genetically modified crop is as “safe” for human consumption as the conventional staple.

In a 22-page consolidated report, the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) pointed out that the Department of Health-Biosafety Committee (DOH-BC) concluded that GR2E “will not cause significant adverse health effects to human and animal health.” (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2019/12/19/golden-rice-safe-for-humans/).

Image credits: Laila Austria


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