The genetically-modified organism (GMO) known as “golden rice” will not significantly address hunger or Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in the country, according to a government agency.
NAPC facilitated the dialogue among a regional coalition of farmers, consumers, environmental activists and other related government agencies from different countries in rejecting the impending commercialization of golden rice in the Philippines.
The groups opposed the use of genetic modification, which generally meant altering the natural gene pool, until there are enough studies that could disprove its risks to human safety and biodiversity.
“There was no comparative studies between GR2E (golden rice) and other varieties to see if it can lessen Vitamin A deficiency, the reason why the golden rice variety was made,” NAPC secretariat Liza Maza said.
Based on reports collated by the agency in a dialogue with basic sectors, it showed that the controversial crop “poses health risks and threatens the livelihood of peasant communities.”
According to Cris Panerio, national coordinator for Magsasaka At Siyentipiko para sa Agrikultura (MASIPAG), there were neither any comprehensive consultations or convincing preliminary scientific research that proves that golden rice is safe or that it can significantly address hunger or VAD.
“Golden rice is fraught with inherent problems, one of which is the low yield resulting to the disruption of the native structure of the rice plant,” Panerio said.
Panerio is referring to the recent study made by scientists from India wherein golden rice produced abnormality and poor yield performance.
Local farmers are worried that this can transfer to other rice varieties as well through cross-contamination once the open field testing is approved by the Department of Agriculture (DA).
To recall, the crop’s initial field testing in 2013 was turned into a fiasco after farmer groups forced their way into DA’s experiment plot and uprooted the crops that were being tested.
In a separate statement released by the SGRN, it pointed out that policy loopholes in the Philippines would allow the distribution of the GMO here despite “insufficient safety studies.”
The policy indicates that once a GMO has been circulated abroad and approved by international regulatory bodies, it can enter the country despite national opposition.
Golden rice was recently approved in Canada.
Aside from the application to field test golden rice, the Philippine Rice Research Institute has also applied to feed test the rice variant here. Details of the said feeding trials are yet to be disclosed. /jpv