Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga had asked the government to ensure that farmers would have “easy and equitable” access to the Golden Rice seeds after the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) affirmed its safety for direct use as food and feed, or for processing (FFP).
The chairman of the House Committee on Food and Agriculture welcomed the DA-BPI’s issuance of a bio-safety permit to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for GR2E Golden Rice.
After rigorous bio-safety scrutiny, the DA-BPI declared Golden Rice “to be as safe as conventional rice,” according to reports.
Enverga said benefitting from the approval of the bio-safety permit are pregnant women and children aged 6 months to five years who usually suffer from VAD.
“Golden Rice has great potential to help address the problem of Vitamin A deficiency (VAD). This was developed as a dietary supplement, hence, it could improve the Vitamin A status of deficient food consumers, especially women and children,” he said.
Citing studies, he noted that the beta-carotene of Golden Rice seeks to address about 30 to 50 percent of the estimated average requirement (EAR) of Vitamin A for pregnant women and young children.
Enverga said to ensure food security and to make the country’s agriculture sustainable, the government should ensure that the poor Filipino farmers would benefit from Golden Rice seeds, and not the abusive private seed producers.
“To address the issues on food security and sustainable agriculture, our direction should be towards the equitable access to these seeds and make them easily available and affordable for the Filipino farmers,” Enverga said.
The House leader expressed concern that some unscrupulous individuals might take advantage of the situation and manipulate the access and the cost of the Golden Rice seeds.
“My concern is that private seed producers of this kind may monopolize or control access and thus would defeat our purpose of providing means to the great number of Filipinos for agricultural inputs (seeds, lands, machineries, etc) to ensure food security,” he said. “Perhaps we should strike a balance between modern agri technology and access to these to mitigate hunger and ensure food security,” he added.
In a statement, PhilRice and IRRI welcomed the Philippine government’s decision to affirm the safety of Golden Rice.
Enverga maintained that Congress should allocate more funds to strengthen the country’s existing biotechnology center to ensure food security in the country.
“Funding is still needed to advance further the technologies suited to our country vis-a-vis our need for varieties of crops resistant to pests, diseases, and effect of climate change,” he said.
He noted that for 2019, the total research and development (R&D) budget on biotechnology amounted to P1.1 billion.
Written by Charissa M. Luci-Atienza in Manila Bulletin. Read original article here.