Published on January 5, 2023 | Danessa Rivera, The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines harvested over 100 tons of genetically modified “Golden” or “Malusog” Rice in 17 pioneer production sites across the country, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said.
PhilRice said Malusog Rice is expected to be fully commercialized at the latter part of 2024 once more seed supply becomes available.
According to the agency, the first harvest will be milled for distribution in target households with pre-school children identified at-risk for vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and undernutrition, as well as pregnant and lactating mothers.
Viga and Virac in Catanduanes had already received promotional packs of Malusog Rice as part of the initial household distribution.
Catanduanes is one of the seven pilot provinces to receive the beta carotene-enriched variety.
The said province has one of the highest incidences of malnutrition in the country according to the Expanded National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Department of Science and Technology – Food and Nutrition Research Institute.
Distribution activities were conducted in partnership with Department of Agriculture (DA) – PhilRice, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and local government units in Catanduanes.
As one of the pilot provinces, Antique governor Rhodora Cadiao said the Malusog Rice can be one of the ways to address the province’s VAD problem among pre-school and school children.
VAD could lead to poor eyesight and weak immune systems that make children prone to viral infections and other diseases, delayed growth and development.
Farmer-cooperators also showed their support and delight as among the first to produce Malusog Rice in their respective provinces.
“As I have observed, Golden Rice (GR) has good quality of seeds, and I want to taste it already. It also has good characteristics in terms of its elongated stem. I was encouraged to be a cooperator of GR to help the government minimize cases of malnutrition,” said Leo Franco Ebardo, a seed grower in Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur.
Malusog Rice (Golden Rice) is branded after its first variety registered in the National Seed Industry Council (NSIC) as Malusog 1 or NSIC 2022 Rc 682GR2E.
PhilRice and IRRI, in collaboration with partner agencies, are currently multiplying the seeds for commercial production.
The current supply will be used for promotion and initial distribution in provinces with high incidence of malnutrition, especially vitamin A deficiency.
In July 2021, the Philippines was the world’s first country to approve the commercial production of genetically modified “golden rice” that experts hope will combat childhood blindness and save lives in the developing world.
Prior the approval, the IRRI spent two decades working with DA-PhilRice to develop golden rice – named for its bright yellow hue.