by ASec. Edilberto De Luna, DA National Rice and Corn Program coordinator
I support the Golden Rice project and I want the research to continue. I believe that knowledge based on science is important to make sound decisions or we will succumb to fears of the unknown.
It is understandable that some sectors of society are against or apprehensive about Golden Rice. But I am saddened to see that such opposition is caused by wrong or limited information, and by ideology. I said it is understandable because I also used to join rallies in my youth.
However, seeing how the technology of genetic modification (GM) is helping the Philippines’ corn industry, I’ve had some rethinking on this. As the National Corn Program Coordinator, I’ve witnessed how Bt corn has benefitted and continues to benefit our farmers, with increase yield and income using less farm inputs. More and more are adopting it, increasing the area planted to Bt corn from more than 50,000 hectares in 2004 to more than 800, 000 hectares now. This has made us self-sufficient in corn. We are even exporting corn for feeds.
Yet, despite this success, activists continue to throw issues against GM. Ironically, many of them are unaware of the contradiction between their advocacy and practice. They are probably wearing jeans and shirts made from GM cotton; and eat meat from cows fed with GM corn and soybean.
One of their usual battle cries is to block GM and promote organic agriculture. What they need to understand is that these two technologies are both important and each has its own benefits. That is why the Department of Agriculture supports both technologies.
As a research organization in the government, it is the responsibility of PhilRice to use science to explore and verify the potential, efficacy, and safety of all technologies; share to the public the results of our findings; and let the end-users decide based on their needs and available resources.
Let me make it clear that PhilRice is not against organic agriculture. In fact, our PhilRice station in Negros Occidental handles organic-related studies in rice production. In the same manner, we have a team here at the PhilRice Central Experiment Station that studies Golden Rice. It is important to note that we strictly adhere to all regulatory and safety requirements, as mandated by national regulation as well as the highest international standards in agricultural science.
All said, how would we know whether Golden Rice can really address the problem of vitamin A deficiency, which afflicts 1.7 million children and half a million women in the Philippines as reported by FNRI ? Science can help provide the answer to this important question so let the research continue.