Genuine safe rice from this Christmas on

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas - The Freeman

Add the calamities to the pandemic, how many of our people will have even just rice each day or even this Christmas? And even if they have the cash to buy rice, will they and all other Filipinos have access to genuine safe rice?

If you care about this and for your and everyone’s information/guidance about safety and good health from this season on, please read this message for the Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Plant Industry from pro-organic/agroecology advocates who are “protesting the issuance of the biosafety permit of Golden Rice for food, feed, and processing despite little evidence presented to warrant such a permit.”

“As stakeholders in our food system, we have been closely monitoring the issue of Golden Rice. We are aware of the fact that there has been no safety feeding tests that have been conducted, thus we would like to understand how a biosafety permit could have been granted despite this lapse in the regulatory process.”

“As Filipinos rely on rice as a staple food and consume it thrice daily, it makes it imperative that rigorous safety feeding tests are conducted and should focus on chronic effects of Golden Rice consumption over a sustained period.”

“We do not believe that substantial equivalence makes Golden Rice a sufficient substitute, especially in light of the fact that it has been developed to address Vitamin A deficiency in at-risk populations and therefore can be categorized as bio-fortified food. We understand that Golden Rice has been developed using genetic engineering techniques and as such is considered as a product very much different from regular rice varieties that we consume. As such, substantial equivalence as a way to state that the product is 'as safe as its conventional counterpart' should not be used as a basis for safety.”

Citing sources, their statement continues: “To date, no study has been done to assess Golden Rice as a whole/finished product. And contrary to what GMO proponents would have us believe, there is still no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.”

“We would also like to call your office’s attention to the fact that in China, there was much public furor when Golden Rice was fed to schoolchildren without the parents’ consent and without providing information on the potential risks of eating Golden Rice.”

“On top of this lapse in safety and risk assessment, Golden Rice has also proven to have very low beta-carotene expression to the point that according to the US FDA “it cannot warrant a nutrient content claim.” Even the proponents have backtracked on their previous claim, stating now that Golden Rice is now merely a “supplement” after many years of peddling Golden Rice as an effective solution to Vitamin A deficiency and coming up short despite billions invested.”

“The current version of the Golden Rice, GR2E contains a negligible amount of beta-carotene – far from the claim that it contains 30% to 50%. Moreover, this amount of beta-carotene degrades quickly after harvesting and requires storage conditions that are expensive for smallholders and the target beneficiaries such as vacuum packing and refrigeration to mitigate the degradation.”

“Why then does government consider Golden Rice an option when it lacks the necessary risk assessments and science has shown how it is ineffective against Vitamin A deficiency? Why not, instead, use government resources to subsidize the growing of existing everyday whole food sources like malunggay, bokchoy, alugbati, or kamote that already grow rampant in our cities and farms?”

“Stressing that access to safe food is a basic right that should remain inviolable at all times, government is urged to reject Golden Rice and protect the health and safety of Filipinos farmers, consumers and farmlands.”

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