TAGBILARAN CITY – Militant farmers belonging to Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon (HUMABOL), an affiliate of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) have opposed to the genetically modified “Golden Rice.”
Danilo Olayvar, HUMABOL chair, told “Sumada” program anchored by Alan Mangmang over DyTR recently that the based on research “Golden Rice” appeared harmful to human and to plants.
He said that instead of Department of Agriculture’s endorsing the said “Golden Rice” to farmers, it would be better for the government to encourage the planting of local varieties of root crops, fruits and vegetables which are rich in Vitamin A. These local varieties of crops are more sustainable than the genetically-modified “Golden Rice,” he said. “Golden Rice” is promoted since it contains Vitamin A, he added.
“Amo gyud nang batukan,” (We will oppose it), he said. And this “Golden Rice,” if commercially viable, could also spur grain price changes, if not price increment, in the locality because this is business.
The government appeared not looking for the benefit of the consumers but to the businesses, Olayvar said in vernacular. It was not immediately known if the “Golden Rice” has already penetrated discreetly in Bohol.
Earlier, the provincial government through the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has enacted an ordinance banning the entry and field testing of genetically-modified-organism (GMO) plants or seeds. Monitoring and vigilance activities had been conducted. But these efforts have been allegedly abandoned for unknown reason.
According to the research, “The (golden) rice also displays an enhanced iron content and in the grain, the presence of such enhanced levels of beta carotene results in a yellow tint that has prompted the name of “Golden Rice.”
The studies pointed out that “Vitamin A, by nature, is almost completely absent from rice. Diseases caused by this deficiency are widespread in many Asian countries in which the grain serves as dietary stales.”
“Through the use of gene technology, researchers have developed a variety of the plant that produces greater proportions of beta-carotene, a compound which may processed by human body into vitamin A.”
“The lack of this vitamin increases the chances of blindness and susceptibility to disease. Vitamin A deficiency is a significant problem among children in developing countries.” It is estimated that one cup of golden rice, around 670,000 children will die each year from the problem, while 350,000 will go blind.”
Reports said that “Golden Rice” has been introduced since this variety is pest-resistant and have high yiled, ther report said.
The need for more rice production appeared prompted the Philippines to pursue this since it has only 1.9 million hectares of irrigated rice fields available for local rice production. This is lower than Thailand with 9.9 million hectares and Vietnam with 7.5 million of rice fields.
The project to develop Golden Rice started 20 years ago in 1993 by German researchers with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. It is the brainchild of Professor Ingo Potrykus of Zurich and Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg. Their collaborative efforts they were able to show that “production of B-carotene could be turned on in rice grains using a minimum set of transgenes.”
It was learned that the research of this “Golden Rice” at Syngenta (Nature of Biotechnology 2005) is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Philippine Dept. of Agriculture, HarvestPlus, European Commission, Swiss Federal Funding, and the Syngenta Foundation. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) together with PhilRice carriedout the field testing, the report said. (rvo)