(as of 22 March 2014)
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) reports that as of March 2014, the research, analysis and testing of beta carotene-enriched Golden Rice continues, in partnership with collaborating national research agencies in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.
IRRI, together with its many partners across the globe, continues with the thorough analysis of the data emerging from the series of multi-location field trials (MLTs) conducted in the Philippines. MLTs are also scheduled in Bangladesh and Indonesia. Continuing consultations are also being implemented with the regulatory authorities in the Philippines to determine the significance, if any, of data lost due to the vandalism by militants of the MLT site in Pili town, Camarines Sur province in August 2013.
The first round of MLTs was conducted using one of the most advanced versions of Golden Rice, GR2 event “R” (GR2-R). This first round took place from 2012 to 2013 to assess how well this version of Golden Rice would perform in different locations in the Philippines. Preliminary results are mixed. While the target level of beta-carotene in the grain was attained, unfortunately yield was on average lower than yields from comparable local varieties already preferred by farmers.
An important goal of the trials was to test whether the agronomic performance of the new rice variety would be acceptable to farmers. The initial results indicate that additional research is required, with greater focus on increasing yield. Based on these sobering results, a decision has been reached to move forward from work solely focused on GR2-R to also include other versions of Golden Rice – GR2-E, and others.
All the participating organizations working on Golden Rice appreciate the sentiments of those calling for a more rapid introduction of a healthier, beta-carotene enriched rice variety, but the developments described above will result in a delay in the timeline. We also know that adjustments in the research process are a normal part of product development. The extent of this delay is being assessed and an updated timeline will be shared as soon as it becomes available. We will continue to communicate developments on this site.
The research on Golden Rice continues to be motivated by its potential contributions to solving the global problem of vitamin A deficiency that afflicts more than 200 million people, especially women and children. The research is implemented with careful and strict adherence to the best international standards of scientific rigor, and the regulatory requirements of the countries of direct interest – the Philippines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.
As previously stated, this means that Golden Rice will only be made broadly available to farmers and consumers if it is: (a) deemed safe and approved by national regulators; (b) successfully developed into rice varieties that retain the same yield, pest resistance, and grain qualities as current popular rice varieties — agronomic and quality traits acceptable to farmers and consumers. If these conditions are met, an independent nutrition evaluation will test whether that Golden Rice can improve vitamin A status under community conditions.
IRRI and its many research partners remain committed to developing a high-performing Golden Rice variety that benefits farmers and consumers. The important mission of the Golden Rice project – to contribute to improving the health of millions of people suffering from micronutrient deficiency – demands that every step and aspect of the scientific study of Golden Rice produces good results. IRRI and all participating organizations will continue to rigorously follow all biosafety and other regulatory protocols in continuing the research to develop and disseminate Golden Rice.
For more information about the Golden Rice Project, please visit www.irri.org/goldenrice