PhilRice Kicks Off Golden Rice Consultation

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has began the public consultation on the proposal for the field trial application of genetically modified Golden Rice (GR2E) variety in the Philippines.

Read more

Golden Rice Bags International Food Safety Nod

The controversial Golden Rice, which is still being pushed in the Philippines, got a positive evaluation from the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), concurring the variety’s safety and nutrition.

Read more

Health Canada approves GM “Golden Rice” not intended for sale in Canada

March 20, 2018. Ottawa – Health Canada has announced its approval of the genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered) Vitamin A enhanced “Golden Rice” even though it is not intended for sale in Canada and has not yet been approved by regulators in the intended markets. Read more

Australia, New Zealand decision on Golden Rice sets tone for GM food approval

In December 2017, the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) issued a directive allowing the commercial sale of food derived from genetically modified (GM) rice line known as GR2E. FSANZ said food derived from GR2E is considered to be safe for human consumption. It also requires manufacturers to label their products as “genetically modified,” in line with Australia and New Zealand’s guidelines on food labeling and to give consumers an informed choice. Read more

Who’s afraid of genetically modified chickens?

DEALING with controversies can be stressful and migraine inducing. Still, I welcome heated discussions over certain topics if only because it will give light and popularize what was once obscure but nonetheless important issues. Take for instance the recent decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke the incorporation papers of online media site Rappler. Overnight, my social-media feeds are filled by posts of corporate law experts talking about Philippine Depositary Receipts and media ownership. Each posts will generate responses—and not just from lawyers or law students—either criticizing, defending or clarifying the SEC’s decision. Read more

SLAC says gov’t should go slow on genetically modified products

While the country takes baby steps towards the development of genetically modified food (GMO) products, there’s one company that isn’t happy about it and another group even fears it could only be a temporary solution to the country’s problems in terms of food security.

Read more

Genetic Engineering — Its global benefits now and beyond

Agriculture could be defined as the manipulation of plant and animal DNA to suit the needs of humans. We have been changing the DNA of our food for 10,000 years. For most of agricultural history, we’ve had no idea what DNA changes occurred in our food. The discovery of recombinant DNA technologies in the 1970s began to change that. For the past 20 years we have been using genetic engineering (GE) to engineer precise DNA changes in our food.

Read more

Filipino farmers trained on biotech and science communication

Filipino farmers trained on biotech and science communication

Farmer-leaders and members of the Asian Farmers Regional Network Philippines (ASFARNET) from all over the country learned about the products, science, safety, and potential benefits of biotechnology as well as strategies and skills for biotech communication during the Trainer’s Training-Workshop Series 2017: Agri-biotechnology Capacity Building for ASFARNET-Philippines on September 21-22, 2017 at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

Read more

Philippine Biotech Crop Area Rebounds in 2016

Philippine Biotech Crop Area Rebounds in 2016

PRESS RELEASE, 19 May 2017: Biotech/GM corn production in the Philippines rebounds in 2016 as the country remains to be the top grower of biotech or genetically modified (GM) crops in Southeast Asia, and ranks as the twelfth biggest producer of such crops in the world, according to the latest report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Read more

Vitamin A rice now a reality

Field trial shows high promise, people may get it by 2018

The first field trial of the Golden Rice in Bangladesh has yielded promising results, triggering prospect of the vitamin A-rich grain’s release as early as 2018.

Two months after harvesting the Bangladeshi version of Golden Rice line, GR2E BRRI dhan29, scientists at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) found that rice grains retained 10 μg/g (micrograms/gram) beta carotene which is good enough to address vitamin-A deficiency (VAD).

Beta carotene, also known as pro-vitamin A, is a substance that the human body can convert to vitamin A.

With this development, a long wait is nearly over for rice breeders who have been trying since 1999 for a varietal development and release of Golden Rice, long being touted by the scientist fraternity as a key remedy to acute VAD problem.

According to the World Health Organization’s global VAD database, one in every five pre-school children in Bangladesh is vitamin A-deficient. Among the pregnant women, 23.7 percent suffer from VAD.

BRRI scientists analysed the post-harvest data collected from the first field test conducted on GR2E BRRI dhan29 during the last Boro season (November 2015 – May 2016) and drew the conclusion just recently that the results are positive.

“Two months after harvest, we’ve found an average of over 10 μg/g beta carotene in GR2E BRRI dhan29. The amount is good enough to meet 50 percent of vitamin-A needs of people consuming rice in their daily diet,” Dr Partha S Biswas, project leader of Golden Rice Project at BRRI, told The Daily Star.

The BRRI carried out the field trial on the campus of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) in Gazipur to keep Golden Rice segregated from other rice varieties grown in BRRI fields.

Provided the BRRI gets the necessary regulatory approval, the organisation would go for multi-location field trials of GR2E BRRI dhan29 in Boro seasons in next two years to set off the process of its commercial release, said Partha.

None of the major diseases like blast, sheath blight, bacterial blight and tungro was observed in the transgenic GR2E BRRI dhan29 and the yield was as good as that of the BRRI dhan29 (check variety) with good expression of beta carotene, according to a paper titled “Recent Advances in Breeding Golden Rice in Bangladesh”.

The paper coauthored by Dr Partha, and the IRRI’s Golden Rice Project Coordinator Dr Violeta Villegas, and Regulatory Affairs head Dr Donald J Mackenzie, was presented at the 4th Annual South Asia Biosafety Conference in Hyderabad, India in late September.

The Philippines is the only other country that is carrying out a multi-location field trial now on their homegrown Golden Rice line while the process of Golden Rice research remained at laboratory and greenhouse stages in Indonesia, India and Vietnam.

Although Bangladeshi rice scientists have been at the forefront of Golden Rice research since the development of this transgenic rice by Swiss and German scientists in 1999, the process gathered momentum only when then IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) plant biotechnologist, Dr Swapan K Datta, infused the genes responsible for beta carotene into BRRI dhan29 in 2002-03.

The genetic engineering technology to derive vitamin A in rice was first applied by Prof Ingo Potrykus of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, and Prof Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg, Germany back in 1999. All renowned journals and news magazines, including the Nature, the Science and the Time, covered the breakthrough in 2000.

The first generation Golden Rice (known as GR1) was developed through infusing genes from daffodil, but later the second generation variety (known as GR2) was developed by taking a maize from corn as it gave much better output of pro-vitamin A.

Some six lines of GR2 (scientifically called “events”) were developed and the IRRI chose to work on one called GR2R, which it developed and subsequently infused in Filipino and Bangladeshi rice varieties.

After years of lab and greenhouse tests on GR2R, the Philippines and Bangladesh eventually stopped upon an IRRI advice that Event GR2E would work better.

Golden Rice co-inventor Prof Peter Beyer told this newspaper that there were some problems with the Event GR2R. He said the new Event should work well.

Swapan K Datta, ex-IRRI scientist who infused beta carotene-producing genes into Bangladesh’s best performing rice variety, BRRI dhan29, said he was looking forward to see Golden Rice goes to farmers’ fields.

The BRRI dhan29, developed by BRRI in 1994, is the most productive dry season rice variety of Bangladesh that has gone beyond national boundaries to be grown in many other countries including India, China, Vietnam, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.

Rice does not contain beta carotene. Therefore, dependence on rice as the predominant food source necessarily leads to vitamin-A deficiency, most severely affecting small children and pregnant women.

Consumption of only 150 gram of Golden Rice a day is expected to supply half of the recommended daily intake (RDA) of vitamin A for an adult. People in Bangladesh depend on rice for 70 percent of their daily calorie intakes.

The IRRI says VAD is the main cause of preventable blindness in children and globally, some 6.7 million children die every year and another 3,50,000 go blind because they are vitamin-A deficient.

In April 2011, Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sanctioned a grant of over $10 million to IRRI to fund, develop and evaluate Golden Rice varieties for Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Officials concerned at IRRI and Gates Foundation said as the Golden Rice inventors and subsequent technology developer Syngenta allowed a royalty-free access to the patents, the new rice would be of the same price as other rice varieties once released for commercial farming in Bangladesh, and farmers would be able to share and replant the seeds as they wish.

-Written by Reaz Ahmad in The Daily Star.  See article original link here.

Filipino scientists, regulators look into GMO perceptions

GENETICALLY modified organisms (GMOs) have been controversial, with a number of people around the world saying they have negative impacts to the environment, can cause “genetic pollution” and are not good for human consumption.

Yet, as of June 30, more than 110 Nobel laureates and over 3,500 scientists all over the world have signed a letter addressing and urging Greenpeace International “to reexamine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology; recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies; and abandon their campaign against GMOs, in general, and Golden Rice, in particular.”

According to the World Food Program (WFP), about one out of nine people in the world do not have enough food to live a healthy life. This amounts to 795 million people in the world who are hungry, most of who come from developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the total population lack food to eat.

Furthermore, vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a public-health problem. A World Health Organization (WHO) data say an estimated 250 million preschool children suffer from VAD together with pregnant women, with 5 percent of this number leads to death every year for children within 12 months of losing their sight.

In the case of the Philippines, it has the highest poverty incidence among its Association of Southeast Asian Nations peers. With a national poverty of 25.8 percent, according to World Bank data, the Philippines has a lot of work to do to alleviate poverty and address issues of public health, such as VAD.

This is where GMO, such as the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn, Bt talong (eggplant) and Golden Rice, enters as a solution to relieve and, eventually, end the battle against VAD and hunger; and give the farmers a chance to provide food while farming sustainably and efficiently without the threat of having shortage or attacks of insects that kill their crops, GMO experts and advocates say.

GMO issue
“The real debate is safety,” said Benigno Peczon, chairman of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines Inc. in an interview with the BusinessMirror. “We already have overwhelming evidence for 20 years’ use that they are safe,” he emphasized.

In his presentation at the forum on GM Crops: Public Perception and Trade Regulation Practices held at the University of the Philippines Law Center in Quezon City, Peczon discussed how the applications of modern biotechnology in the agriculture area has benefited farmers.

Bt corn has been planted in the Philippines for more than 14 years now, or since 2002, in more than 800,000 hectares by farmers.

“In traditional plant breeding, related plants are interbred until the desired trait emerges,” Peczon said, noting that it costs time and effort to do this kind of technique, where they shuffle and crossbreed recurrent parent plant with desirable characteristics, such as high yield and adaptation.

For Peczon, one of the main objectives in agriculture is to ensure that only the desired plant grows. He added, “as far as the farmers are concerned, anything that competes with the crop of choice is undesirable, getting rid of weeds is not easy and can be costly.”

Bt corn in the Philippines
Leonardo Gonzales, founding president and chairman of Sikpa/Strive Inc., said at the same forum in his lecture, entitled “Socioeconomic Impact Assessment: The Bt Corn Experience,” Bt is “a naturally occurring soil-borne bacterium where it produces crystal like proteins that selectively kill specific groups of insects.”

The Bt corn is a GMO which, through genetic engineering, the Bt gene was incorporated in the corn plant’s DNA to enhance its resistance against insect attacks, such as the Asiatic corn borer. This method helped many farmers produce corn resistant to insects and saved them money from using pesticides.

“Bt corn required 54-percent less pesticides than ordinary hybrid [OH] corn in order to produce the same amount of corn grain from 2003 to 2011,”Gonzales said.

For Gonzales, Bt corn has had other empirical findings. One of which is on fertilizer use.

He said, “Bt corn adopters, on the average, were 9-percent more efficient in the use of fertilizer than ordinary hybrid corn-seed users.” This, after more than 10 years of planting the GMO plant, has indicated positive environmental impacts among corn producers.

Another finding, according to Gonzales, was that the average yield advantage of Bt corn over OH corn, was 19 percent and a cost advantage of 10 percent compared to OH corn, with a 42 percent higher return on investment from 2003 to 2011.

Last, Bt corn consistently outperformed OH corn by 29 percent in meeting food and poverty thresholds in the same timeframe.

“Technological innovations, like the GM products, are sustainable if they provide socioeconomic impacts to society. They are either compliant with the basic requirements of the natural resources, and if it does not comply with that, it will die a natural death,” Gonzales said.

He added, “We believe in the hypothesis that in the long term, the role of new technology is to lower your cost so that you will become efficient in the production of that commodity.” To be concluded

-Written by Stephanie Tumampos, BusinessMirror.  See article link here.

Agricultural Biotechnology in the Philippines

AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY IN THE PHILIPPINES

In 2016, the area planted to biotech maize in the Philippines increased to 812,000 hectares from 702,000 hectares in 2015 due to favorable weather conditions in the country.

Read more