Thursday, March 17, 2016

Research on healthier rice promoted at Asian Farmers Exchange Program

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—Farmers, media practitioners, researchers, and scientists from various Asian countries recently received an overview of how the nutrient content of rice could be increased through genetic engineering.

Violeta Villegas, senior scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Golden Rice Network coordinator, explained the crucial role of gene modification (GM) technology in rice research in her presentation during the Asian Farmers Exchange Program 2016 held at IRRI on 16 March, Recognized as a pioneer for genetically modified crops in Asia, the Philippines was chosen as the venue for the 2016 program.

“Genes to enable the rice plant to produce beta carotene in the grain are not found in the International Rice Genebank, which contains more than 127,000 collections of rice,” Villegas said. “Golden Rice was developed through GM using genes from maize and a common soil microorganism that, together, produce beta carotene in the rice grain.”

Golden Rice is a new type of rice that contains beta carotene, a source of vitamin A. It is being developed as a potential new food-based approach to improve vitamin A status. IRRI, the coordinating institution for the Golden Rice Network, has been working with national partners since 2006.

Developing healthier rice varieties to reduce micronutrient deficiency or hidden hunger is part of IRRI’s mission, added V. Bruce J. Tolentino, IRRI deputy director general for communication and partnership (photo).

Around 30 participants from the Philippines, India, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand attended the annual event organized by CropLife Asia and the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP).

The exchange program is a major initiative to sustain the dialogue, share knowledge, and build linkages among farmers and NGO leaders. It aims to form a strategic Asian alliance for greater advocacy and for the benefit of poor Asian farmers.

CropLife Asia is part of a global federation representing the plant science industry that supports innovation, research, and development in agriculture through the use of biology, chemistry, biotechnology, plant breeding, and other techniques and disciplines.

The BCP is a nonstock, nonprofit membership association. The broad-based, multi-sectoral coalition advocates the safe and responsible use and advancement of modern biotech in the Philippines. Members are representatives from the science and academic communities, farmers’ and church organizations, industry, and the media.

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