On July 21, the Philippines became the first country to authorize the commercial propagation of Golden Rice.
The Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice) issued a permit for Golden Rice on said date, stating that it had “undergone satisfactory biosafety assessment according to Department of Science and Technology, DA, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Health, and Department of Interior and Local Government Joint Department Circular No.1, Series of 2016,”
Professors Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer invented Golden Rice in the late 1980s. In 2001, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was the first licensee of the scientists’ work. The DA-PhilRice, along with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) center IRRI, has been evolving Golden Rice over the past two decades to help battle vitamin A deficiency, which can cause preventable blindness and other illnesses.
One out of every five children in the Philippines’ poorest neighborhoods, according to the IRRI, suffers from vitamin A deficiency — a disease that affects an estimated 190 million children globally.
According to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), a one-cup serving of cooked Golden Rice contains enough beta-carotene to meet up to 30% – 50% of the estimated average vitamin A requirement for children aged 6 months to 5 years, the age group most at risk of vitamin A deficiency in the Philippines.
This achievement places the Philippines at the vanguard of utilizing agriculture research to address hunger and health-related consequences safely and sustainably, as stated by Jean Balié, the director general of IRRI.
“The regulatory success of Golden Rice demonstrates the research leadership of DA-PhilRice and the robustness of the Philippine biosafety regulatory system,” Jean Balié added.
As reported by the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA FAS), beta carotene is naturally present in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but not milled rice. Golden rice has been genetically modified to have high quantities of beta carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A.
DA-PhilRice executive director John de Leon stated that they are committed to supplying farmers with the finest quality seed and providing a safe and healthy supply of food for all Filipinos.
“A comprehensive quality assurance and stewardship program for Golden Rice will be set in place, covering the entire value chain from seed production to post-harvest processing, to marketing.” John De Leon added.
DA-PhilRice has begun working with local partners to explore market- and program-based ways to introduce the rice variety to areas with a high incidence of Vitamin A insufficiency and other micronutrient deficiencies.
The certification of Golden Rice is anticipated to assist the Philippines in its Sustainable Development goals of eliminating hunger, supporting sustainable agriculture, and increasing food security and nutrition.
According to Ajay Kohli, IRRI’s director of research, “The last-mile delivery of Golden Rice is just one component of a food systems approach to nutrition, which also includes community outreach and extension services, and improved market access for farmers.”
“By improving rice varieties that address farmer, consumer, and environment needs, precision breeding innovations such as genetic engineering and gene editing can open up pathways for more inclusive participation in the food system.” Ajay Kholi continued.
Other regulatory agencies in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States gave Golden Rice favorable reviews in 2018. In Bangladesh, Golden Rice is also undergoing a final regulatory evaluation.
According to the USDA, Golden Rice is the Philippines’ second genetically modified authorized crop and the first to address nutrition concerns.