‘Golden rice’ out in the market by 2015

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Filipino palay farmer. Photo courtesy of ricematters.wordpress.com
Filipino palay farmer. Photo courtesy of ricematters.wordpress.com

LEGAZPI CITY, 1Nov2013 (PNA) – The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said here over the week that the genetically modified (GM) rice called “golden rice” it is developing to address Vitamin A deficiency especially among children will be available in the market by 2015.

PhilRice is a branch of the International Rice Research Institute which studies golden rice.

“We are now in the final stages of the research and evaluation of this GM rice variety that earned the ‘golden’ moniker owing to the yellowish color of its grains,” PhilRice Director and Chief Science Research Specialist Antonio Alfonso said during a recent media seminar on rice and nutrition here.

This color, Alfonso said, comes from the beta carotene content of the rice that becomes Vitamin A when processed by the human body.

Millions of Filipinos do not get enough of this vital nutrient, so this rice has become the symbol of an idea: that genetically engineered crops can be a tool to improve the lives of the poor, he said.

Vitamin A deficiency can damage the immune system and decrease the body’s ability to resist infections, resulting in increase in mortality risk from common diseases especially among young children, he said, warning that such deficiency may also result in impaired vision — including night blindness that may lead to permanent, partial, or total blindness if left untreated.

Recent data from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute gathered through the 7th National Nutrition Survey in 2008 reveals that 15.2 percent of Filipino children aged six months to five years are affected by Vitamin A deficiency, according to Alfonso.

Alfonso said Vitamin A deficiency remains a serious public health concern in the Philippines, affecting approximately 1.7 million children under the age of five and 500,000 pregnant and nursing women many of whom are living in far-flung areas.

“A rice variety with beta carotene offers a sustainable response to Vitamin A deficiency as rice that is grown in the Philippines is staple food for more than three billion Filipinose,” Alfonso said.

Rice is more accessible than Vitamin A supplements in remote areas, he stressed.(PNA)

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