SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ, Nueva Ecija/LOS BANOS, Laguna – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has approved the commercial propagation of golden rice after an extensive study by various government agencies, it was announced here by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

In Los Banos, Laguna, home of the Interanational Rice Research Institute (IRRI) which spearheaded the research and trials of the new rice variety, IRRI’s Dr. Russell Reinke made the same announcement, adding the Philippines thus became the world’s first country) to approve the commercial production of genetically modified (GM) ”golden rice” which is enriched with vitamin A precursor beta-carotene raising hope it will help combat childhood blindness and save lives in the developing world.

”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,” Reinke said.

The next step was to ”take our few kilos of seed and multiply it… so it can be made more widely available,” he said.

The golden rice project which was funded partly by Bill and Melinda Gates has faced opposition from various groups and farmers in the Philippines and other areas. The Gates couple at one time visited IRRI under heavy security to personally know the progress of the research.

In Munoz, Dr. John C. de Leon, executive director of DA-PhilRice, said the permit for commercial propagation of the so-called “golden rice” was signed by DA-Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) director George Y. Culaste on July 21 after the research conducted by the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Health, and the Department of the Interior at Local Government, in accordance of Joint Department Circular No.1, Series of 2016.

In a statement, de Leon said the development of golden rice is seen to address the recurring vitamin A deficiency among Filipinos.

He said golden rice contains beta carotene that makes Vitamin A for the body.

“Makatutulong ito para sa malinaw na paningin, malakas na pangangatawan laban sa impeksyon, at tamang paglaki. Kapag kulang sa vitamin A, humahantong ito sa kondisyon na kung tawagin ay vitamin A deficiency o VAD. Kapag nangyari ito, humihina ang resistensya, nagiging sakitin, at maaaring maging sanhi ng pagkabulag kung hindi maaagapan (This helps for clear vision, strong body against infection and proper growth. When lacking vitamin A, it will lead to condition on what we called is vitamin A deficiency (VAD). If it happened, the resistance will weaken, become sickly and might cause blindness if not immediately treated),” de Leon said.

Citing a study, he said only two of 10 Filipino families have enough vitamins and a cup of golden rice can give as much as 40 percent of vitamin A which is very essential for children aged six months to five years.

“Maituturing na isang tagumpay itong commercial propagation permit ng Golden Rice hindi lamang para sa mga mananaliksik sa likod nito, kundi lalo’t-higit sa mga Pilipinong nangangailangan ng sapat na nutrisyon (This commercial propagation permit of the Golden Rice could be considered a success not only for researchers behind it, but especially to the Filipinos that need sufficient nutrition),” the PhilRice official added.