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The research of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) on Golden Rice, a type of rice that could help reduce vitamin A deficiency in the country, wins the Agriculture and Fishery Modernization Act Best R&D Paper (Gold Award) in the basic research category during the 23rd National Research Symposium organized by the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Bureau of Agricultural Research.

The research, Marker-Aided Transfer of Beta-Carotene Biosynthetic Genes (Golden Rice I) into two Philippine Rice Varieties, showed that trait of Golden Rice could be transferred to PSB Rc82 and NSIC Rc128 in lesser time and with minimal resources through the use of DNA markers in combination with traditional breeding. Golden Rice accumulates beta carotene, a source of vitamin A, in the grains.

Dr. Antonio A. Alfonso, project leader and the paper’s main author, said DNA markers are small segments of DNA used in tagging or marking certain genes or regions of the chromosomes.

In their study, Alfonso said the use of  DNA markers helped his team in verifying whether the varieties being improved had successfully acquired the beta carotene as result of traditional breeding.

Alfonso, also director of the PhilRice-based DA-Crop Biotechnology Center, said the technique helped them in assuring that the agronomic traits, pest resistance, and grain quality of the original varieties are retained.

Selected local varieties are being improved to contain beta carotene to help reduce the about 190 million children and 19 million pregnant women suffering from vitamin A deficiency in the world. In Southeast Asia, World Health Organization statistics further show some 90 million children suffering from the deficiency.

In a 2009 study of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a cup or 150 g of raw Golden Rice, when cooked and eaten, could supply half of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin A needed every day by adults.

Currently, Alfonso’s team is developing and evaluating Golden Rice2, the type of Golden Rice with significantly higher amount of beta carotene than the Golden Rice1 used in the study. PhilRice and the International Rice Research Institute are collaborating on the ongoing work.

“Golden Rice2 has up to 36 micrograms of beta carotene per gram of grains so it has high potential in improving vitamin A status,” Alfonso said.

Furthermore, Alfonso stressed that Golden Rice is also being evaluated to ensure that the beta carotene-fortified rice will be safe for health and to the environment.

“Golden Rice will only be available to the market if studies would prove its effectiveness in improving the vitamin A status of the consumers,” he said.

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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