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Philippines, First Country to Approve Commercialization of Golden Rice

Filipino farmers will be the first in the world to be permitted to produce a type of rice fortified with nutrients to aid in the reduction of childhood malnutrition.

Chintu Das
Golden Rice

After getting regulatory approval, Filipino farmers will be the first in the world to produce a type of rice fortified with nutrients to aid in the reduction of childhood malnutrition. 

Golden Rice was developed by the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice) in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to contain added levels of beta-carotene that the body converts into vitamin A.

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which impacts an estimated 190 million children globally, affects one out of every five children in the Philippines' poorest neighborhoods. The disease is the leading cause of childhood blindness and a contributing factor in a compromised immune system. 

Dr. Jean Balié, Director General of IRRI, a CGIAR research institute, remarked, "This milestone places the Philippines at the worldwide vanguard in utilizing agriculture research to address challenges of malnutrition and related health consequences in a safe and sustainable way." 

He said “The regulatory success of Golden Rice reflects DA-scientific PhilRice's leadership and the Philippine biosafety regulatory system's robustness.” 

Golden rice has been genetically modified to give up to 50% of a young child's estimated average need (EAR) for vitamin A, the age group most vulnerable to VAD in the Philippines.

The Philippines is the first country to authorize commercial production of this novel species, which has previously obtained food safety certification from authorities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States of America. In Bangladesh, Golden Rice is also undergoing a final regulatory evaluation. 

Dr. John de Leon, Executive Director of DA-PhilRice, stated, "We are committed to guaranteeing the finest quality seed for farmers and a safe and healthy food supply for all Filipinos." 

“For Golden Rice, a complete quality assurance and stewardship program will be implemented, spanning the full value chain from seed cultivation through post-harvest processing and marketing.” 

DA-PhilRice has begun collaborating with local partners to explore market- and program-based strategies for introducing Golden Rice to areas with a high prevalence of VAD and other micronutrient deficiencies. 

It's also boosting the amount of accessible seed and completing other tasks needed to get Golden Rice onto farmers' fields. 

Providing supplements to families to add to their meals or bio-fortifying items like oil or wheat, which might be pricey or demand behaviour modification from undernourished households, have been used in the past to combat VAD. Golden rice provides a vital ingredient to a staple meal that is already consumed in large quantities, with about 120 kg per capita ingested each year. 

Dr. Ajay Kohli, IRRI Director for Research, said, "The last-mile distribution of Golden Rice is just one component of a food systems approach to nutrition, which also involves community engagement and extension services, as well as better market access for farmers." 

“Precision breeding technologies such as genetic engineering and gene editing can open up avenues for more equitable involvement in the food system by developing rice varieties that satisfy farmer, consumer, and environmental requirements.” 

Professors Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer originally proposed Golden Rice in the late 1980s. In 2001, IRRI was the first licensee of the scientists' work. 

The IRRI's Healthier Rice Program is now working on high iron and zinc rice (HIZR), with the objective of eventually producing a stacked variety with beta-carotene, iron, and zinc that can help address numerous micronutrient deficiencies that impact over two billion people globally.

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