‘Golden Rice will help PHL fight malnutriti­on’

- By Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas @jearcalas

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 multiagenc­y 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.”

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