Philippines becomes first country to approve genetically modified ‘golden rice’ for production

The Philippines has become the world’s first country to approve the commercial production of genetically modified ‘golden rice’.

Golden rice screenhouse at IRRI, Source: AFP
Golden rice screenhouse at IRRI, Source: AFP

The Philippines on July 23, 2021, become the world’s first country to approve the commercial production of genetically modified ‘golden rice’.

Health experts believe that ‘golden rice’ developed by the Philippines will help to fight childhood blindness and save lives in the developing world.

Crops such as rice, soybeans, and wheat, as well as fruits and vegetables have a natural glitch in their process of photosynthesizing during which plants consume resources and energy leading to poor productivity.

Philippines approves genetically modified ‘golden rice’

•The Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has spent 20 years developing the golden rice. The rice has been named golden rice because of its bright yellow hue.

•Golden rice is the first genetically modified rice approved for commercial propagation in South and Southeast Asia.

•Food safety regulators in the US, Canada, and Australia had analyzed the golden rice and approved it as a crop but not for commercial production. Bangladesh is currently reviewing it.

Significance of golden rice: Why is it more nutritional?

•The government regulators issued a biosafety permit to make the rice enriched with vitamin A-precursor beta-carotene to make it more nutritional.

•In normal rice, beta-carotene is produced in the plant but not in the grain. The researchers have developed the golden rice in a way that it produces beta-carotene in the grain.

•Golden rice has been developed to provide 50 per cent of the estimated requirement for vitamin A in young children.

When will golden rice be available for consumption?

•Russel Reinke of the IRRI has said that the project is past the regulatory phase but it will take to be available for consumption.

•Limited quantities of seeds will be distributed to Filipino farmers in selected provinces in 2022. The production of golden rice is like that of normal rice. It does not require any additional fertilizer or management strategies.

Vitamin A deficiency causes childhood blindness in 50,000 children per year: WHO

•As per the IRRI, approximately 17 per cent of children under the age of 5 in the Philippines are suffering from vitamin A deficiency.

•World Health Organization (WHO) shows that up to 50,000 children every year are found with vitamin A deficiency of which half die within 12 months of losing their eyesight.

•Vitamin A is crucial for the healthy functioning of the immune system and overall growth and development.

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