Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Agriculture Minister, key stakeholders praise progress of Golden Rice in Bangladesh

March 6 2018 - DHAKA, BANGLADESH – “Bangladesh will march forward on Golden Rice” said H.E. Matia Chowdhury, Minister of Agriculture for Bangladesh as she acknowledged the positive impact of biotech crops and their potential to help Bangladesh meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030. 

“Inspired by the success of the country's first commercially released biotech crop in 2013, Bangladesh is now field testing three more crops developed through applications of agro-biotechnology, including Golden Rice. The government has every intention to support genetically modified crop cultivation in the future.” says Chowdhury.

Minister Chowdhury was speaking at a stakeholder workshop organized by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and the International Rice Research Institute, at CIRDAP International Conference Centre, where she attended as the Chief Guest. She was joined at the session by special guests, Mr. Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah, Senior Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture,   Dr. Md. Shahjahan Kabir, Director General of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute and Dr. Md. Kabir Ikram-ul Haque, Director General of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council and Dr. Matthew Morell, Director General of the International Rice Research Institute. During the session key officials and policymakers for agriculture, environment and biosafety were appraised of the latest developments on Golden Rice.

“Bangladesh has emerged as a global model for combating hunger and obtained great success in becoming a country of food surplus from chronic food shortages. [Now,] we are trying to make our staple nutritionally enriched to build a hunger free and healthier nation,” said BRRI Director General Dr. Md. Shahjahan Kabir.

At present, rice contributes 70% of the daily caloric intake of the Bangladesh population, while the national consumption of vitamin A is estimated at half the recommended daily allowance. About 20% of children and 5% of pregnant women of Bangladesh are suffering from Vitamin A deficiency and are at risk of blindness. Advances such as beta-carotene fortified GR2E Golden Rice are an important part of an overall strategy to reduce Vitamin A deficiency in the country.

A technical briefing focused on event selection, nutritional impact, safety assessment and agronomic data from the GR2E Golden Rice confined field trials in Bangladesh. The presentations consisted of data to support the GR2E regulatory applications that were recently made in Bangladesh, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. It also allowed participants to examine in detail the rigorous protocols that guide Golden Rice research.

Spearheaded by BRRI in Bangladesh and a flagship product of IRRI’s Healthier Rice program, GR2E Golden Rice is the first nutritionally enhanced GM rice to receive regulatory approval for use in food. GR2E Golden Rice recently completed its regulatory application with Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) with the publication of the Food Standards variance in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 22 February 2018.

Upon completion of its assessment of GR2E rice, FSANZ concluded that “No potential public health and safety concerns have been identified in the assessment of GR2E.  On the basis of the data provided in the present Application, and other available information, food derived from GR2E is considered to be as safe for human consumption as food derived from conventional rice varieties.” 

IRRI Director General Dr. Matthew Morell affirmed that a robust regulatory landscape is essential to amplifying the impact of Golden Rice and other nutritionally fortified rice varieties such as high zinc rice. “FSANZ’s approval process, which ensures the highest standard of health protection, provides a model for decision-making in all countries wishing to reap the benefits of Golden Rice” asserts Morell.

The application for environmental and food safety assessment of GR2-E BRRI dhan29 Golden rice was lodged with the Ministry of Agriculture on 26 November, 2017 and the Ministry of Environment and Forest on 04 December, 2017.

Morell adds, “Each regulatory application that Golden Rice completes with national regulatory agencies, including those currently under process in Bangladesh takes us one step closer to bringing Golden Rice to the people who need it the most.”

The insights derived from the morning session of the workshop set the stage for the policy session in the afternoon, chaired by Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) Executive Chairman Dr. Md. Kabir Ikramul Haque. Dr. Haque noted that the Bangladeshi government has been pro-active in adopting biotechnological innovations and works closely with international institutions like IRRI to deliver its benefits to farmers and consumers.

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