ASEAN farm center backs Golden Rice

MANILA, Philippines — Another international institution has backed the controversial Golden Rice amid calls of a green group to revoke its approval.

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) is supporting the Golden Rice as it emphasized that agri-biotechnology will be key to food security and upliftment of farmers' lives.

ASEAN's farm research center said it is boosting support for favorable agri-biotechnology regulatory policies amid local calls for the revocation of the commercial permit of pro-Vitamin A-rich Golden Rice.

Despite safety questions on biotechnology products, SEARCA deems it important to harness the full potential of agri-biotechnology through "effective communication and science-based regulatory frameworks."

"We stand behind products of agri-biotechnology that increase agricultural productivity to feed a growing population in the midst of dwindling natural resources and erratic changes in climate," Searca director and national academician Glenn Gregorio said.

"Due attention must be given to our resource-poor farmers by providing them access to information, best practices, and new technologies that gives them a fighting chance to cope with the many challenges they face and to open up better opportunities for them and their families so that they can have better quality lives," he said.

While government has just approved permit for use for food, feed, and processing of Golden Rice, non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace has filed a petition for the permit's revocation.

Golden Rice has been questioned by interest groups due to the technology that inserted a gene into the grain that enables the staple to produce increased Vitamin A, helping reduce massive Vitamin A deficiency.

Vitamin A deficiency is the biggest killer of children globally, and the main cause of childhood blindness. The beta-carotene content of Golden Rice aims to provide 30 to 50 percent of the estimated average requirement of vitamin A for pregnant women and young children.

The FFP approval is the latest regulatory milestone in the journey to develop and deploy Golden Rice in the Philippines. With this approval, PhilRice and IRRI will now proceed with sensory evaluations.

To complete the Philippine biosafety regulatory process, Golden Rice will require approval for commercial propagation before it can be made available to the public.