The long-awaited approval of the golden rice, a food that could have helped save millions of lives this century, finally took off.
MANILA — The genetically modified “golden rice” is now approved for commercial production in the Philippines, the first to do so. Experts believe this achievement will help in eradicating blindness and save lives in most developing economies.
Philippine Rice Institute (PhilRice) executive director John de Leon says in a statement, a biosafety permit for propagating Vitamin A-infused Golden Rice was issued on 21 July by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry.
According to rice breeders, the biosafety permit issued by Government regulators has provided the path for the rice to be grown by farmers across the country.
The golden rice is a form of normal white rice that has been genetically modified to provide vitamin A to counter blindness and other diseases in children. Developed two decades ago, it struggled to gain approval.
The approved golden rice is enriched with vitamin A-precursor beta-carotene to make it more nutritional and addresses vitamin A deficiency in the developing world.
Although practically unknown in the west, vitamin A deficiency is a matter of life and death in developing countries. Its lack has been responsible for deaths in children more than HIV, tuberculosis, or malaria. On a global scale, about a third of children under the age of five suffer from this predicament and may also lead to permanent loss of sight.
“It’s a really significant step for our project because it means that we are past this regulatory phase and golden rice will be declared as safe as ordinary rice,” says Russell Reinke of the Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to AFP ahead of the announcement.
The next step is to “take our few kilos of seed and multiply it… so it can be made more widely available,” he said.
IRRI has spent two decades working with the DA-PhilRice to develop golden rice, named for its bright yellow hue. (JSM/Headline PH)
Featured image credit: IRRI