Written by Charisma Love B Gado


Asia has one of the highest prevalence of vitamin A deficiency in the world with 33.5 percent pre-school children affected.

In the Philippines and Bangladesh, four out of every ten children aged 6 months to 5 years and two in every ten pre-school children, respectively, are estimated to be vitamin A-deficient. With what statistics insist, mothers like Ma. Cecilia Anama, 34, from Tanza, Cavite are fearing their children’s future daunted by vitamin A deficiency. She and people the world over desperately need a new reason to dream, hope. They need people and technologies to count on.

Dreams at risk

Cecilia, an expectant mother of her third baby in October, is uneasy and disturbed, not because of pregnancy discomforts but of the figures revealing the status of children around the world suffering from vitamin A deficiency and fighting to keep their sharp eyesight every year.

“The numbers are quite a surprise. As a mother to three children soon, I know that their eyesight is as important as heat in cooking. Their vision is important in achieving their dreams,” Cecilia said.

Cecilia’s worries are deep-rooted that she nurtures her body not only for her own good, but also for her baby. Coming from a family with bespectacled sisters at only 10 years old, she wants her child to have a better chance in fighting vitamin A deficiency.

It is widely publicized that young children whose mothers are vitamin A-deficient will likely suffer the same fate. Such children are prone to measles, diarrhea, and other infectious diseases. Subclinical or mild vitamin A deficiency respectively affects 17.5% and 23.7% of pregnant Filipino and Bangladeshi women.

A step in realizing dreams

The enthusiasm for getting nutritional help from Golden Rice in the future is a practical one. “I was so excited when I heard of Golden Rice from which I could get beta-carotene thrice a day! I guess, nothing could beat [this expected development in our staple food],” Cecilia, who takes pre-natal vitamins, carrots, and squash, exclaimed.

In the Philippines, two popular rice varieties with beta-carotene are currently being developed by PhilRice. A season-long confined field test was concluded to assess their beta-carotene content, including yield potential, pest resistance, and grain quality.

Elsewhere, the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) is also developing Golden Rice. In 2003, IRRI began improving BRRI Dhan 29, the country’s most productive rice variety for the local rice to contain the Golden Rice trait. BRRI hopes to release the variety by 2015 after passing rigorous safety standard procedures and requirements.

Hoping for the realization of dreams

“The baby in my womb could one day be a doctor, lawyer, writer, teacher…. But she could not be what she wants to be if blind. Indeed, good eye sight and good health are children’s indispensable weapons in achieving anything,” Cecilia said.

As she looks forward to seeing, embracing, and kissing her third baby, Cecilia is beaming, confident that her vitamins and nutritious foods will keep the baby healthy. More than beaming, she radiates with motherly beauty for she is satisfied that science is working on the improvement of her child’s nutrition, helping her cast and shape her child’s dreams.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute