Genetically modified Golden Rice to benefit nearly 200,000 people

Nearly 200,000 Catandunganons, including 29,919 children aged 0-59 months old and 11,963 pregnant and lactating mothers, will be benefited once production of Golden Rice on the island begins.

This was disclosed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) last week during the launching of the Golden Rice Program in Catanduanes at Rakdell Inn in Virac.

THREE BAGS OF GOLDEN RICE SEEDS take center stage along with Gov. Joseph Cua (6th from left6) and other local stakeholders of the Golden Rice Program of the national government which seeks to begin commercial propagation of the genetically-modified rice variety in Catanduanes next year. The island province has been selected as one of seven pilot areas due to the high prevalence of stunting among children at 19.25%, third among provinces nationwide. PLGU Catanduanes photo

As an initial step for deployment, DA-PhilRice will distribute a total of 120kg of the golden rice seed to selected farmer cooperators and seed growers in Virac and Viga to be planted on one-hectare of rice fields in each municipality

DA-PhilRice has also committed 2 kilograms of milled Golden Rice to the Provincial Nutrition Office to be used in the celebration of nutrition month this July.

The distribution of the seed variety came at the conclusion of the technical briefing on Golden Rice seed production and handover of seed planting materials on June 8-9, 2022.

In the same activity, a ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between DA-PhilRice and partner farmers and seed growers was also conducted to signify their commitment and support to make the Golden Rice seed production and deployment a success.

Present during the MOA signing were Governor Joseph C. Cua, a representative of Congressman Hector Sanchez, Provincial Agriculturist Nelia Teves of the Provincial Agriculture and Services Office, the municipal agriculturists of Virac and Viga, partner farmers and seed growers, and officials of DA-PhilRice Bicol and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

In his message, Gov. Cua reiterated the provincial government’s support for Golden Rice, noting that it is a product of local research that can be integrated in the local nutrition programs to help improve the nutrition intake of Vitamin-A deficient populations.

In support of the program, the provincial government will create a Golden Rice Council, establish a Technical Working Group (TWG), issue the necessary executive orders, and establish an Urgent Situation Team to address future issues.

The support of the LGU and its partners is crucial to the success of the program, said DA-PhilRice as it committed to providing quality seeds and capacity building.

Catanduanes households will receive the first Golden Rice grains, with taste testing to be done once supply is available, along with continued public awareness of the program.

DA-PhilRice is also advocating for the inclusion of Golden Rice in local development and investment plans for agriculture and nutrition.

Data showed that out of the 23,575 children measured and weighed, the island-province had 4,538 children either stunted or severely stunted due to Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD).

Compared to the average height of 110 centimeters (cm) for boys and 109.4 cm for females, moderately-stunted children are usually about 9 cm to over 14 cm shorter, presenting a significant public health issue in the province.

Results of the 2020 Operation Timbang (OPT) Plus conducted among children aged 0 to 59 months in all areas of the country showed that Catanduanes ranked third nationally as to prevalence of stunting with 19.25%, just behind Camarines Sur’s 21.31%.

“Isa sa sa mga problema namin ay kung paano maresolbahan ang malnutrisyon. So, we are happy that you [DA-PhilRice] have this program na talagang interesado kami,” said the chief executive during the presentation of the program last November 2021.

Catanduanes is the only province in Bicol included in the seven pilot provinces to become priority areas of the Golden Rice Program,l the others being Quirino, Antique, Western Samar, Agusan del Norte, Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao.

In a press conference last week, Dr. Victoria Lapitan, DA-PhilRice Ligao town station director said that Golden Rice is rich in Vitamin A that it could address the Vitamin A deficiency that leads to malnutrition, with the program to ensure the availability, affordability, and accessibility of safe and nutritious rice to all Filipinos at all times.

“Selected farmers from towns of Viga and Virac are set to plant Golden Rice this wet season, they are identified for grain production that will be planted on two hectares. Forty kilos of Golden Rice seeds will be planted on a hectare of rice land and during harvest time when milled, rice will be available to the identified target communities,” Lapitan said.

She noted that Golden Rice is planted like the other ordinary rice and will only take 108 to 110 days to be harvested.

“One hectare of irrigated land planted with Golden Rice will have a yield of about 3.5 tons of palay. So for Catanduanes, we are expecting at least 7 tons of palay that will be milled,” she said.

Seed production will be supervised by PhilRice in Ligao and Samar stations in 87 hectares of rice farms that will be available for other farmers.

“The branch station will also conduct capacity building and oversee monitoring and evaluation in Catanduanes to ensure the success of the pilot project,” Lapitan said.

PhilRice said that, when consumed as part of the daily diet, Golden Rice can give young children 30-50 percent of their estimated average requirement of Vitamin A.

The addition of beta-carotene in its grains–which is converted by the human body as needed–is intended to address Vitamin A deficiency that can lead to a weak immune system, impaired cognitive development, and poor eyesight.

Golden Rice is derived from PSB Rc82 as its parent material and is classified as NSIC Rc682 GR2E rice variety or commonly called Malusog.

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