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‘Golden Rice will help PHL fight malnutrition’

The commercial propagation of Golden Rice in the Philippines is a huge boost to the country’s efforts to eradicate hunger and malnutrition and achieve food security by 2030, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network (Gain) report.

The Gain report noted that the Philippines became the first country in the world to approve Golden Rice for commercial propagation last July 21. This means that Filipino farmers may now plant and sell the vitamin A-rich rice variety.

“In so doing, the Philippines has again demonstrated its commitment to embracing scientific innovation as a tool to advance Sustainable Development Goal number 2,” according to the Gain report, which was published recently.

The Gain report was prepared by the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service in Manila.

“This decision follows a multi-agency review confirming Golden Rice is as safe as conventional rice,” it added.

The Gain report said with the biofortification of vitamin A in the country’s staple, “the Philippines will be better positioned to meet Sustainable Development Goal [SDG] number 2.”

Under SDG 2, countries commit to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.

In particular, the report said Golden Rice would contribute to efforts to meet targets SDG 2.1 (ending hunger and ensuring accessibility of people to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round) and 2.2 (ending all forms of malnutrition).

The Gain report noted that the Philippines is a “major rice consumer with a population of roughly 110 million and annual per capita rice consumption of 133 kilogram.”

Citing data from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the Gain report noted that only 2 out of 10 Filipino households meet the estimated average requirement for vitamin A in their daily diet.

“While beta carotene is naturally available in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, it is not present in milled rice,” it said.

PhilRice, an attached agency of the DA and a proponent of the Golden Rice project, said the genetically modified organism (GMO) followed the standard process of rice breeding that usually takes 10 to 12 years before a new variety reaches consumers.

Proponents will now seek varietal registration from the National Seed Industry Council to ensure that varieties are based on “consistent good agronomic field performance,” according to PhilRice.

“As always, we are committed to ensuring the highest quality of seed for farmers and a safe and nutritious food supply for all Filipinos,” PhilRice Executive Director John C. de Leon said in a recent statement.

“[We] will be implementing a comprehensive quality assurance and stewardship program that covers all steps in the chain from seed production, to post-harvest processing, to marketing.”

Greenpeace Philippines earlier denounced the government’s approval of the commercial propagation of Golden Rice, saying that the GMO would make it more difficult for farmers to recover from the adverse impact of the pandemic.

The nongovernment organization called on Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar to reverse the Bureau of Plant Industry’s (BPI) decision to approve the commercial propagation of Golden Rice.

“The continued approval of genetically modified ‘GM’ crops including so-called ‘Golden Rice’ will further drag down farmers amid climate and Covid struggles,” said Wilhelmina Pelegrina, senior campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

“The DA needs to ensure that farmers are central in a green and just recovery from the pandemic, and are supported by resilient food and farm systems in the face of the climate emergency. Instead of relying on GM crops such as GR that have no proven benefits to farmers and consumers, the DA should promote ecological agriculture that works with and for farmers, and which offers Filipinos diverse grains, fruits, and vegetables for diverse diets, ensuring food and nutrition security.”

Image courtesy of Business Mirror file photo
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