Issue of August 25, 2013
Mt. Province

Courier Anniversary Issue
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‘Golden rice’ won’t replace CAR’s organic rice varieties
by Rimaliza A. Opiña

Commercial distribution of the golden rice variety will not affect the production of heirloom rice varieties, particularly those cultivated in Cordillera.

It is also premature to conclude that distribution of golden rice will result in the death of local and heirloom rice varieties because this is still under the experimental period, said Department of Agriculture-CAR Director Marlyn Sta. Catalina.

In February, non-government organization Searice (Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment) petitioned the government to stop the release of the genetically modified LL62 and the golden rice varieties.

The group, which addressed their petition to President Benigno Aquino III, Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala, and Bureau of Plant Industry Director Clarito Barron, aimed to gather one million signatures to beef up their call.

Searice claimed these varieties threaten local rice production industry, harm the environment, and allegedly have adverse effects on health with the prolonged consumption of gene-tically modified rice.

Aside from the presence of a market, Sta. Catalina said planting of heirloom rice is embodied in the culture and traditions of Cordillerans. She added fears that this will lead to the “death” in its propagation is far-fetched.

Heirloom rice varieties such as the tinawon, which is grown in Ifugao, the kintoman, which is mostly grown in Benguet and Mountain Province, and Kalinga’s unoy are exported mostly in the USA.

The government’s promotion of propagation of organic rice also addresses the fears of Searice and other groups that are against genetically-modified rice varieties, Catalina said.

She said the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is strengthening its researches on organic rice farming so the country can sustain production in the coming years.

To cut on importation expenses, Pres. Aquino has ordered the DA to ensure that within his term, the Philippines would have a sufficient supply of rice. The DA and PhilRice have responded by concentrating on building more irrigations, propagation of hybrid rice, and possibly propagation of golden rice.

PhilRice assesses the efficiency of organic matters on rice varieties, identifies the effectiveness of commercially-available compost inoculants and effects of organic rice cultures on grain yield and soil, and determines the occurrence and distribution of pest in organic rice ecosystems.

PhilRice also conducts a long-term study on the use of organic fertilizers.

Searice said while this effort is laudable, “cultivation places undue risks to unknowing consumers, to the environment and ecological biodiversity, farmers’ livelihood and infringes on their rights.”

Searice said no environmental impact assessment was done to determine the effects of golden rice in the Philippines’ biodiversity.

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