The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said after rigorous biosafety assessments, Golden Rice was found to be safe for direct use as food and feed or for processing (FFP).
This rice variety met various oppositions due to alleged health concerns.
John de Leon, PhilRice executive director, said the positive regulatory decision will “bring forward a very accessible solution to our country’s problem on vitamin A deficiency that’s affecting many of our pre-school children and pregnant women.”
He said vitamin A deficiency is very rampant among children aged six months to five years as it increased from 15.2 percent in 2008 to 20.4 percent in 2013.
The beta-carotene content of Golden Rice can provide 30 to 50 percent of the estimated average requirement of vitamin A for pregnant women and young children, De Leon added.
“IRRI is pleased to partner with PhilRice to develop this nutrition-sensitive agricultural solution to address hidden hunger… The Philippines has long recognized the potential to harness biotechnology to help address food and nutrition security, environmental safety, as well as improve the livelihoods of farmers,” said Matthew Morrell, IRRI director general.
The FFP approval is the latest regulatory milestone in order to deploy Golden Rice in the Philippines which will also allow PhilRice and IRRI to proceed with sensory evaluations and conduct of taste tests.
To complete the Philippine biosafety regulatory process, Golden Rice will require approval for commercial propagation before it can be made available to the public. Field trials of this rice variety were harvested in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija and San Mateo, Isabela last September and October.
The country will join a select group of countries that have affirmed the safety of Golden Rice. Last year, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Health Canada and the United States Food and Drug Administration published positive food safety assessments for Golden Rice.
A biosafety application was also lodged in November 2017 and is currently undergoing review by the Biosafety Core Committee in Bangladesh.
IRRI said its Healthier Rice Program is also working on researches to develop grains that are rich in iron and zinc.