'Putting politics before progress': Industry boss slams anti-GM golden rice campaigners in the Philippines

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

The tests are a crucial step towards releasing the product on the market.
The tests are a crucial step towards releasing the product on the market.
Philippine activists opposing the cultivation of Golden Rice — which is biofortified to address vitamin A deficiency — have been accused of ‘shameful’ behaviour in trying to halt a ‘life-changing’ innovation.

Protestors last week gathered at the Department of Agriculture (DA) Central Office in Quezon City as part of an international campaign against the feed and field testing of the rice variety in the country.

The tests are a crucial step towards releasing the product on the market, and follow a confined field trial last year.

Campaigners are concerned that the introduction of the seeds will ultimately see local farmers losing their right to choose their seed varieties.

But in a strongly-worded statement, Dr Siang Hee Tan, Executive Director of Industry body CropLife Asia, said the protesters were holding technology to hostage.

“On behalf of the plant science industry in Asia and as a concerned citizen, I am deeply disappointed in the actions of activists in our region who are putting politics before progress and trying determinedly to derail Golden Rice.

“Make no mistake – this agricultural innovation is not a game-changer, it’s a life-changer. Golden Rice has the potential to address critical Vitamin A deficiencies here in Asia and around the world. Trying once again to hold this technology hostage and out of the grasp of those who need it most is a shameful act. 

Innovative future

Golden Rice was developed by the The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its research partners, including from industry. Countries wishing to adopt the Golden Rice technology are free to introduce it under criteria outlined in a Humanitarian Use Licence Agreement, subject to local regulatory arrangements.

Dr Tan added: “[Those] who helped develop Golden Rice are to be commended for bringing this plant science technology forward. Innovations such as this are paving the way to a brighter and healthier future for everyone.”

Elsewhere, Australian and New Zealand regulator FSANZ recently recommended​ that products containing traces of golden rice should be able to be sold in the two countries.

The regulator stressed the application was based on trade issues and did not permit the rice to be grown in Australia or New Zealand.

“The Institute intends for Golden Rice to be grown in developing countries. Permitting Golden Rice in the [Australian] Food Standards Code would mean if small amounts were present in other shipments of imported rice there would be no trade issues,” ​it noted.

This means that there would be no cost involved in having to exclude golden rice grain from co-mingling and hence that there would be no consequential need to increase the prices of foods that are manufactured using co-mingled rice grain, said the regulator.

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