Stakeholders in the agriculture sector strongly endorsed the newly-developed rice variety “Golden Rice” saying that it has more health benefits than the ordinary white rice.
During the recent ceremonial tasting of the new rice variety in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that although the Golden Rice smells and tastes the same as ordinary rice except it is colored yellow, he will choose it over white rice since it has more health benefits.
“Kung sana noong bata pa ako ay meron na nito, sana mas malusog pa ako,” Dar said.
Nueva Ecija 2nd District Rep. Micaela Violago, on the other hand, also endorsed the new rice variety after tasting it.
“It tastes almost the same. We will choose ‘Golden Rice’ because it has health benefits. Kaya dapat, we should switch to ‘Golden Rice’ instead of eating the regular white rice,” Violago added.
For his part, US Agricultural Attaché Ryan Bedford said he will feed the new rice variety to his two daughters.
Meanwhile, Dr. Marissa Romero, co-lead of the Healthier Rice Project, said the respective comments given affirmed the results of the first sensory evaluation of the Golden Rice they conducted in 2019. Romero explained that the Golden Rice is indistinguishable in terms of taste, aroma and texture from conventional rice varieties.
“We will use the favorable feedback from the ceremonial taste-test and results from our previous sensory evaluation tests to promote ‘Golden Rice’ to the consuming public,” added Romero.
Dar said these favorable feedbacks will expunge doubts on the benefits of Golden Rice, and the DA-Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) will vigorously promote it as a nutritious food to consumers especially to those with high malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency, which is prevalent among children and pregnant women.
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness, and contributes to stunting and malnutrition, among children five years old and below. VAD weakens the body’s resistance to diseases and infections, and may even result in death if left untreated.
In the Philippines, VAD incidence continues to be a significant public health issue, affecting nearly 17 percent, or 2 million Filipino children under the age of five, according to the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey of the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).
Romero further disclosed that Golden Rice is like ordinary rice but enriched with beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A as needed. Beta carotene is also found in yellow-colored and green leafy vegetables.
He added the increased consumption of Golden Rice by Filipino families would improve their dietary and nutritional requirements.
DOST-FNRI experts said that one cup of cooked Golden Rice can provide 30 to 50 percent of the estimated average requirement (EAR) of vitamin A for preschoolers, and pregnant and lactating mothers.
Their study further shows that beta carotene-enriched rice, like Golden Rice, could improve vitamin A intake and could reduce the prevalence of VAD among women and children.
“We take pride as the Philippines, under the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, is the first country to approve ‘Golden Rice’ for commercialization. As such, the rest of the world will be looking at our experience before they join the bandwagon,” Dar said.
With the release of the biosafety permit for the commercial propagation of Golden Rice in July 2021, DA-PhilRice, in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and other partners, are taking the step towards bringing the vitamin A-enhanced rice to farmers through the production of seeds.
PhilRice Director John de Leon, meanwhile, explained that it will require three to four cropping seasons to produce sufficient supply of seeds for commercial farm cultivation.
De Leon added that limited amount of seeds may be made available for the pilot-scale deployment of Golden Rice next year, while succeeding seeds will be distributed in target areas with high prevalence of vitamin A deficiency by the last quarter of 2023.