The GR2E variety of Golden Rice is biofortified with beta-carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A. Its cultivation aims to complement current strategies that target concerns of rising Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in developing countries, especially in South and South East Asia.
However, opponents fear that it is the thin-end of the wedge when it comes to GM food approvals.
Following advisement by the Philippine Department of Agriculture–Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI), the current consultation will be conducted by PhilRice via the local government units in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija and San Mateo, Isabela.
Members of the public will be able to raise questions about the project and comment on it. All comments from the community will be submitted to DA-BPI.
GR2E role in combatting VAD
Rice is the major staple food in many of these countries, exhibiting the necessity of its role as a medium to deliver nutrients to the public. Golden Rice is intended to supply 30% to 50% of the estimated daily average Vitamin A requirements in preschool children and pregnant or lactating mothers.
World Health Organisation (WHO) estimations show 190 million preschool children and 19 million pregnant women worldwide suffer from VAD. In the Philippines and worldwide, VAD is deemed a persistent public health issue.
Earlier in June this year, Golden Rice was granted approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) in its third positive food safety evaluation.
This came right after the crop had received safety approvals from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) in February and Health Canada in March.
Approval for the consultation comes on the heels of protests against the cultivation of Golden Rice by activists. The protest in Philippines took place in Quezon City, and were part of a larger international movement.
Trade body CropLife Asia’s executive director Dr Tan Siang Hee decried this movement as ‘shameful’ behaviour that was ‘putting politics before progress’.