Philippines approves commercial production of Golden Rice
Published : Sunday, 25 July, 2021 at 12:00 AM Count : 660
The Department of Agriculture in The Philippines has approved the commercial production and use of 'Vitamin A' enriched Golden Rice in the country clearing its way for commercial cultivation, said the officials of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Earlier in December 2019, the Golden Rice received approval for direct use as food, feed and processing from the Philippines government which enabled PhilRice, the national rice research institute in the Southeast Asian country, to conduct sensory evaluation research.
Before the sensory evaluation, PhilRice conducted years of rigorous lab research and field trials at research stations to ensure highest compliance with environmental and health standards.
As a genetically modified crop, Golden Rice needed environmental and health safety clearance, before it could be tried in the open fields and finally okayed for commercial propagation.
After necessary research and clearance from the authorities, approval for commercial propagation came on Thursday, July 22, 2021, as the local authorities were convinced with the outcomes of researches that Golden Rice is as safe as any other variety and it could be an effective tool to curb 'Vitamin A' deficiency.
According to high officials of BRRI and IRRI, an application for biosafety approval for Golden Rice is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Environment of Bangladesh, which was filed by BRRI in late 2017.
This new variety of rice has already received food safety approvals from regulators in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and USA several years ago, but the Philippines is the first country to approve its commercial cultivation.
Congratulating PhilRice, BRRI Director General Dr Md Shahjahan Kabir told this correspondent, "The approval for commercial propagation of Golden Rice in the Philippines is a major milestone in our fight against 'Vitamin A' deficiency not just in the Philippines, but in Bangladesh as well."
"The application for biosafety approval of Golden Rice in Bangladesh has been pending with the Ministry of Environment. I strongly believe Bangladesh Government will follow in the footsteps of the Philippines and clear the way for the rice, which has been conceived as a sustainable, cost-effective solution for vitamin A deficiency in Bangladesh alongside other ongoing interventions," he added.
In the Philippines, around one in five children from the poorest communities suffer from vitamin A deficiency, which affects an estimated 190 million children worldwide. The condition is most common cause of childhood blindness, as well as a contributing factor to a weakened immune system.
Golden Rice is genetically engineered to provide up to 50 per cent of the estimated average requirement for vitamin A of young children, the age group most susceptible to Vitamin A deficiency in the Philippines.
PhilRice has been working with local partners to identify market and programme-based approaches for bringing Golden Rice first to selected communities with a high prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency and other associated micronutrient deficiencies.
It is also increasing the volume of available seed and other remaining activities necessary for moving Golden Rice into farmers' fields.
Golden Rice has been developed under the Healthier Rice Programme in the Philippines and Bangladesh.
It is the first rice developed to address vitamin A deficiency, and under the Healthier Rice Programme, rice researchers at PhilRice and BRRI are also developing biofortified varieties with enhanced zinc and iron content, with technical and resource support from the IRRI.