Written by the Web Team
PhilRice develops nutrient-rich rice to help the malnourished especially in rural areas not reached by government health interventions – a tactic to meet PhilRice’s second corporate strategic goal of helping reduce incidence of malnutrition.
Two types of rice with better nutritional quality are being developed or improved by PhilRice: vitamin B-rich brown rice and beta carotene-containing Golden Rice.
Dr. Marissa V. Romero, PhilRice food scientist, said that these kinds of rice have the potential to reach many people, especially the poor in far-flung areas who do not have reliable access to or cannot afford other sources of these essential vitamins.
Rice is a rich source of carbohydrates and contains good amounts of protein, but has very low amounts of micronutrients, Romero calculated.
Brown rice, produced from removing only the outer hull layer of the rice grain and leaving the bran intact, has been shown to be more nutritious and healthier than white rice due to higher amounts of fiber, B vitamins, minerals (especially iron), and antioxidants in the bran.
As a rich source of various macro- and micro-nutrients, Romero said brown rice, locally known as pinawa, could help reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes as shown by some clinical studies.
On the other hand, Golden Rice is being developed as a potential tool to help children and pregnant and lactating mothers who are vulnerable to blindness, infection, and death due to a lack of vitamin A in the diet. Golden Rice contains beta carotene in the grain. This beta carotene is converted into vitamin A as needed by the body. Golden Rice could provide up to 50% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin A for an adult, according to 2009 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report and the American Society of Nutrition.
In the Philippines, vitamin A deficiency remains a public health problem. A study conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) has shown that at least 15.2% or 1.7 million children in the Philippines aged 6 months to 5 years, and 15.9% or 500,000 pregnant and lactating mothers are vitamin A deficient.
The breeding and development of rice varieties to contain meaningful amounts of key nutrients is known as ‘biofortification.’ This can be a complement to other public health and nutrition efforts, said Romero. Biofortification is expected to be a sustainable way to retain the nutrients added even during cooking and storage.
Golden Rice is not yet available for consumers to purchase or eat, pending regulatory review and other studies. Romero said that part of PhilRice and its partners’ work is to ensure that, if Golden Rice is deployed, it will reach those most vulnerable to vitamin A deficiency.
As part of its corporate strategic plan, PhilRice implements Natural Products and Value-Adding Systems Development Program to help Filipino households benefit from high-quality and micronutrient-dense rice, thus helping address the malnutrition problem.