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GM Rice approval 'edging closer'

Source: ...

BBC

They say that it threatens the Philippines' staple food.

The fields at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), in Nueva Ecija, just north of Manila, look just like the other thousands of rice paddies that make up the Luzon landscape.

Apart from the tall fences surrounding them, you would never guess they were being used to grow rice that had been genetically modified to produce beta-carotene.

The body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A and scientists estimate that one cup of Golden Rice could provide up to 50% of an adult's recommended daily intake.

The rice has been engineered so that the precursor chemical is expressed in the edible grain as well as in the non-edible leaves, where it occurs naturally.

It has taken scientists more than two decades to boost the beta-carotene in Golden Rice to meaningful levels. But Dr Antonio Alfonso, who leads the project at PhilRice, says the product is now ready.

Speaking to the World Tonight programme, he said: "My increased confidence comes from the fact that... our data, aside from being mostly available now, are as expected and, therefore, unlikely to raise new questions or concerns on the part of the regulators.

"But we have to recognise people's fear. That's exactly why we have regulation for establishing safety: food safety feed safety, environmental safety, safety to humans, safety to animals, these are all considered in our current regulatory system in the Philippines."

The stakes are high. Rice is by far the most important crop in the Philippines, with the average Filipino eating 100kg (dry weight) per year.

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