Biotechnology is a powerful tool of science to feed the future – Dar

Author: DA Communications Group | 2 February 2022

This was highlighted by Agriculture Secretary William Dar in his opening remarks during the Healthier Rice Project Team and Advisory Committee (HRAC) Meeting held on February 2, 2022.

“The stance of the Department of Agriculture (DA) is clear: biotechnology is a pillar of our ‘OneDA approach’ to ensuring agricultural productivity, sustainability, economic growth, and nutritional security,” Dar said.

The secretary added that the biosafety approval of Golden Rice for commercial propagation firmly cements the Philippines ’ leadership in agriculture biotechnology in the ASEAN region.

According to the agri chief, the Department welcomes its role as they pioneer the deployment and commercialization of the first rice variety of genetically modified (GM) for nutritional improvement.

He added that DA will be needing capacity assistance and funding resources to move their basic knowledge’s from institutions such as International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to strategic research partners.

This year, the DA-Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) will map out programs for the massive production of Golden Rice seeds and production of Golden Rice in its pioneer provinces. Initially, DA-PhilRice will bring Golden Rice to the vitamin A-deficient provinces.

“On the policy front, the National Seed Industry Council (NSIC) has adopted a unified policy for the varietal registration of all genetically modified crops, which paves the way for a streamlined deployment timeline for Golden Rice,” Dar said.

DA as a member of the National Nutrition Council will pursue the inclusion of Golden Rice as one of the recommended interventions in the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition, which currently includes the study of biofortification in its revised research agenda.

“On the research and development front, we have poured extensive resources into the new facilities of the Crop Biotechnology Center in DA-PhilRice, where the Golden Rice Program office and other ongoing biotech crop research activities will be housed,” Dar said.

The secretary was among the first to taste the Golden Rice when it was launched in September 2021.

“I am convinced that Filipino farmers and consumers can be persuaded to make it a part of their livelihoods and regular diets and that its success will inspire a generation of Filipino youth to explore careers in the agricultural sciences,” he said.

Keen on involving the young Filipinos in various fields of food production, Dar explained that the Department continues to pursue programs to entice youth into venturing careers in agriculture, specifically in biotechnology.

“The achievements made by the Philippines exemplified by the biosafety approvals for Golden Rice as well as Bt eggplant hopefully will inspire more young Filipinos to pursue this field because we need more biotechnologists, scientists to help us drive the agriculture and fisheries sector towards modernization and industrialization,” Dar said stressing that he is looking forward for further collaboration with the healthier rice project team and advisory committee.

“The bigger challenge for us is to allay fears, share the science, and build capacity through knowledge dissemination and extension work. For this, the Golden Rice Program can rely on our vast network of agricultural officers and extension workers at the regional, provincial, down to the municipal level to help our target communities accept, access, and adopt Golden Rice,” he said.

Apart from the commercialization of Golden Rice, the agri chief also urged the committee to participate in addressing other problems affecting nutrition security such as the development of low glycemic rice and enhancing the capacity of rice farmers in the food systems approach.

The HRAC is created by IRRI and is composed of representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and various experts from the areas of plant secondary metabolism, GM crop development, regulatory affairs, human nutrition, marketing, and product development. ### (Kristel Merle, DA-AFID)

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