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PIA Press Release

Study shows farmers, consumers go for Pinoy GM rice

By Department of Agriculture

Manila (12 September) -- Most consumers are likely to accept the country's genetically modified (GM) rice, which is expected to be commercially available by 2011, a recent study conducted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and Strive Foundation showed.

Citing the study, Director Alicia Ilaga of the DA Biotechnology Program Office (DA-BPO) said more farmers are eager to try the new rice variety in the hope of reducing cost and losses brought about by pests.

Buoyed by these findings, Ilaga said she would commit funding for research and development (R&D) on rice biotechnology.

The ex-ante impact assessment of GM rice covered close to 1,000 farmers and consumers randomly chosen in Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Iloilo, Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte.

Majority of those polled said they are willing to plant, buy and sell GM rice.

Between 30 percent and 33 percent of the respondents were aware of rice biotechnology and genetic engineering, while 17 percent of all respondents heard about genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Among the respondents, urban consumers had the highest level of awareness on GMO, GE and rice biotechnology compared to rural consumers and farmers. The same survey showed that 15 percent of respondents have heard about the potential risks and benefits of biotechnology.

Majority of respondents accept GMO rice in general (63 percent), GM pest resistance rice (64 percent) and biofortified rice (69 percent). Only five percent of the respondents do not accept GM rice.

Fifty-eight percent of the respondents said they were willing to plant, buy and sell while nine percent said they were not willing to do the same. Thirty-two percent of the respondents gave a conditional yes.

For Vitamin A and Iron-enriched GM rice varieties, the willingness to plant and buy was generally the same figure-- 66 percent indicated their willingness, eight percent were not willing and 26 percent expressed conditional willingness

For Vitamin A, slightly above 20 percent of respondents are not willing to pay a higher price for GM rice.

However, between 49 percent and 55 percent of the respondents said they were willing to pay up to 10 percent increase in the price of GM Vitamin A rice.

Majority (85%) of the respondents expressed their desire to know more about rice biotechnology through radio, television and newspapers.

In the ongoing research project of PhilRice, the "3-in-1" rice funded by the DA BPO is gaining headway. Experts believe that by 2011, the first GM rice in the Philippines will pass all regulatory requirements for its much-awaited commercial release..

PhilRice's breeding quest for the "3-in-1" rice requires the transfer not only the beta carotene biosynthesis into the grains of local varieties but the genes for tungro resistance and bacterial blight resistance through conventional breeding technique.

The "3-in-1 rice" is also considered a genetically modified-derived (GM-derived) rice because Golden Rice, as one of its parents, is the result of genetic engineering that involved the deliberate artificial introduction of foreign genes from other plant species that enabled Golden Rice to produce beta carotene in the grain.

The "3-in-1 rice" is the first of its kind because it will be "stacked" with a combination of traits that will produce direct benefits to producers and consumers alike.

In essence, it is being bred to contain the characteristics of the first and second generation GM crops.

The first generation GM crops (those with agronomic traits like insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant plants) sought to increase producer profitability through cost reductions or higher yields, while the second generation GM crops - such as the Golden Rice - are expected to contain higher level of micronutrients, thereby boosting the health of a rice-dependent population.

"The expected benefits from the '3-in-1 rice' technology outweigh its investment and development costs," so says the study's basic hypothesis. (Biolife News Service) [top]

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