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.