In coordination with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), PhilRice led a series of briefings in Quezon City, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Ilocos Norte, Agusan del Norte, Albay, Camarines Sur, and Tagaytay City. Different stakeholders, such as farmers, policy makers, students and teachers, research and development professionals, medical and health practitioners, and media and public information officers, including those from women’s groups and the religious sectors participated in these activities.
The briefings provided updates on the status of the Golden Rice development, the nutrition situation in the Philippines, and the new measures under the new Joint Department Circular (JDC) governing research, testing, and deployment of plant biotechnology products, such as Golden Rice. Participants were encouraged to ask questions and to provide their viewpoints during the open forum.
The project team also discussed Golden Rice with former Senator Aquilino “Nene”Pimentel, 18 committee secretaries at the House of Representatives, and participants of a Dialogue on Golden Rice organized by the National Anti-Poverty Commission. There were also radio and TV interviews to broaden the dissemination of information on Golden Rice.
“Briefings, meetings, and dialogues were conducted to inform the public about the status of the project, to listen to and address their concerns, and to generate support for the project’s continuation and completion,” said Dr. Roel Suralta, Golden Rice Project Leader at PhilRice.
The new JDC also requires transparency and public participation to allow stakeholders to have appropriate access to information, and a unique opportunity to participate in a responsible and accountable manner in a biosafety decision-making process.
Many have voiced out their support for the project. According to Dr. Eugenio Dayag, a medical doctor and former city health officer-turned-farmer in San Mateo, Isabela, “Golden Rice is a very good health intervention and a safe source of vitamin A as its beta carotene is the same to what is found in fruits and vegetables.”
Meanwhile, former City Mayor of Ligao, Linda Gonzalez, also expressed her appreciation and support to the project saying, “It is a very good initiative and a breakthrough to address a health and nutrition problem.”
Other participants were eager to make Golden Rice available. Former Department of Education Superintendent Cecilia Aribuabo of Laoag City is hopeful that with Golden Rice available in everyone’s plate, the improvement of health status will result in lower rates of school drop outs and in a more productive population in the future.
Scientific and farmers organizations, such as the Philippine Society of Biotechnology and Molecular Biology-Central Luzon Chapter and the Asian Farmers Network in the Philippines have expressed in writing their support to the Golden Rice Project. Both organizations recognized the importance of biotechnology and believe in the potential of Golden Rice to alleviate the problem of vitamin A deficiency. They look forward to the success of the project and to make Golden Rice available for a more productive and progressive nation.
Golden Rice contains beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A only as needed by the body. The Golden Rice project aims to develop this new type of rice to help address the persistent public health problem of vitamin A deficiency in the country.
The Golden Rice Project is ongoing with DA-PhilRice as lead agency in collaboration with IRRI. For more information about the project, please contact Dr. Roel R. Suralta, Golden Rice Project Leader, at 0999-569-7004.