Archive for August, 2013


Malnutrition fight not over, Golden Rice research continues

8 August 2013. Source: International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), media release.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) – Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) are continuing to fight malnutrition in the Philippines, and continuing Golden Rice research as a potential way to reduce vitamin A deficiency.

“Golden Rice field trials are part of our work to see if Golden Rice can be a safe and effective way to reduce vitamin A deficiency in the Philippines – to reduce malnutrition,” said Dr Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general of communications and partnerships at IRRI.

“Vitamin A deficiency is “horrible and unnecessary, and we want to do our part to help to reduce it.”

“Our Golden Rice research is part of our humanitarian work to reduce vitamin A deficiency that mostly affects women and children – causing sickness, blindness, and even death,” Tolentino said. “Earlier today one of our Golden Rice field trials located in the Bicol region of the Philippines was vandalized. We are really disappointed that our Golden Rice field trial was vandalized, but it is just one trial and we will continue our Golden Rice research to improve human nutrition.”

In the Philippines, vitamin A deficiency affects approximately 1.7 million children (15.2%) aged 6 months to 5 years. Subclinical vitamin A deficiency affects one out of every ten pregnant women.

Golden Rice is a new type of rice that contains beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A when eaten. Research so far indicates that eating about one cup a day of Golden Rice could provide half of an adult’s vitamin A needs.

IRRI is working with leading nutrition and agricultural research organisations to develop and evaluate Golden Rice as a potential new way to reduce vitamin A deficiency in the Philippines, Bangladesh and other countries.

In the Philippines, all GM research and development under contained conditions are overseen by the Department of Science and Technology – National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines. The Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) strictly monitors field trials, coordinates evaluation of biosafety information, and approves GM crops if appropriate.

Golden Rice field trials are being conducted in the Philippines by PhilRice and IRRI. The field trials have been permitted by DA-BPI, the national regulatory authority in the Philippines for crop biotechnology research and development, after establishing that the trials will pose no significant risks to human health and environment.

The Golden Rice field site that was vandalized was located within the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit 5’s (DA-RFU5) Bicol Experiment Station in Pili, Camarines Sur. The Golden Rice trial site is less than 1,000 square metres (or 0.1 hectare). Nearly all plants have been uprooted and left on site.

“We all want to answer questions about Golden Rice,” Tolentino added. “Therefore, we need to test Golden Rice and test it according to the best and most rigorous research standards. This means continuing field trials to ensure there is adequate data and analysis that will enable informed decisions on Golden Rice.”

“At IRRI, we remain dedicated to improving nutrition for everyone in the Philippines and in other rice-eating countries,” Tolentino said.

“We’re here for the long term, and Golden Rice and other healthier rice are part of our efforts to help reduce malnutrition amongst rice-consumers.


8 August 2013. Source: ACPFG KAUST RELEASE FINAL.pdf

ACPFG and KAUST sign MoU to deliver salt tolerant crops

The Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) at the University of Adelaide and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), an agreement that will deliver salt-tolerant varieties of wheat and barley for the benefit of both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Australian growers.

The partnership will allow for transfer of materials, technologies, and resources between the two organizations, facilitating the development of crops that are able to grow in saline conditions. The project will also provide opportunities for student exchanges and joint PhD projects.

“Both KAUST and ACPFG have great resources and mutual interest in understanding and improving salinity tolerance in crops,” said Prof. Mark Tester, Professor of Bioscience at KAUST. “This international agreement provides a valuable opportunity to benefit agriculture in both the Kingdom and Australia – we all win.”

“The agreement is an exciting venture for ACPFG and Australia because our researchers will access additional information, resources, and expertise to investigate how these important crops respond to extreme saline conditions,” said Dr. Stuart Roy, Program Leader at the ACPFG. “The project will help deliver to Australian farmers’ crops that can grow in these tough conditions.”

In one part of this collaboration, ACPFG and KAUST will replicate laboratory and field trials to identify genes that play an important role in salinity tolerance, providing both organizations with extensive data on these cereals.


GM rice approval ‘edging closer’

6 August 2013. Source:

Scientists in the Philippines are weeks from submitting a genetically modified variety of rice to the authorities for biosafety evaluations.

They claim it could be in the fields within a year, but national regulators will have the final say.

Supporters say it will help the 1.7 million Filipino children who suffer vitamin A deficiency – which reduces immunity and can cause blindness.

But campaigners say “Golden Rice” is a dangerous way to tackle malnutrition.

They say that it threatens the Philippines’ staple food.

The fields at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), in Nueva Ecija, just north of Manila, look just like the other thousands of rice paddies that make up the Luzon landscape.

Apart from the tall fences surrounding them, you would never guess they were being used to grow rice that had been genetically modified to produce beta-carotene.

The body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A and scientists estimate that one cup of Golden Rice could provide up to 50% of an adult’s recommended daily intake.

The rice has been engineered so that the precursor chemical is expressed in the edible grain as well as in the non-edible leaves, where it occurs naturally.

It has taken scientists more than two decades to boost the beta-carotene in Golden Rice to meaningful levels. But Dr Antonio Alfonso, who leads the project at PhilRice, says the product is now ready.

Speaking to the World Tonight programme, he said: “My increased confidence comes from the fact that… our data, aside from being mostly available now, are as expected and, therefore, unlikely to raise new questions or concerns on the part of the regulators.

“But we have to recognise people’s fear. That’s exactly why we have regulation for establishing safety: food safety feed safety, environmental safety, safety to humans, safety to animals, these are all considered in our current regulatory system in the Philippines.”