Golden rice demo farm looms in Batac City

By Leilanie Adriano

May 4, 2018, 10:17 pm


LAOAG CITY—A demonstration farm of a genetically-modified golden rice is set to be established in Batac City anytime this year as an alternative solution to malnutrition in the country.

While other farmers here remain skeptical about the reported danger it may pose to public health and biodiversity, the Department of Agriculture-attached agency Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and other researched-based agencies here have allayed fears of the health risk brought about by the golden rice project launched in 2016. The project had successfully completed its confined field trial, confirming that golden rice is as safe and nutritious as ordinary rice.

Golden rice is engineered to carry two foreign genes—one bacterial and another from maize—that together produce beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A that gives the rice grains their characteristic yellow hue. Scientists hope distribution of the modified rice can make inroads against vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to blindness and makes people more susceptible to infectious diseases.

According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the deficiency affects approximately 1.7 million children aged 6 months to 5 years in the Philippines alone.

In Ilocos Norte, Dr. Reynaldo Castro of PhilRice said field test has been tried in Batac City since 2011 and it has been proven safe to eat.

As a preparatory for the setting up of a golden rice demonstration farm in Batac City, several farmer-leaders here had been tapped to help in the advocacy.

Earlier, Ronalyn Miranda, field test supervisor of the golden rice project said “golden rice is not a silver bullet to solve Vitamin A deficiency but it offers an alternative to improve the health welfare of the people.”

Backing this move, Provincial Manager Eleonor Andres of NFA Ilocos Norte told farmer-leaders here to give GM crops a chance.

“Kapag pumasok ang IRRI at PhilRice, it means we are in good hands. These are research-based agencies and we urge you to have an open mind to let science in discover the potential benefits of these products,” said Andres.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), a cup of golden rice could provide up to half of the body’s vitamin A needs and could reduce the prevalence of Vitamin-A Deficiency (VAD) among women and young children. (PNA)