Aug08

Let's rally against malnutrition

Author // Dr. V. Bruce J. Tolentino Categories // Golden Rice blog, Bruce Tolentino's blog

Vitamin A deficiency is a devastating problem for young children and pregnant and nursing women in the Philippines. It causes children to get sick, go blind, and even die. Vitamin A deficiency affects 1.7 million children (15.2%) in the Philippines and 33.5% of pre-school children worldwide – far too many. Vitamin A deficiency is horrible and unnecessary, and we want to do our part to help to reduce it.

If vitamin A is adequate, we can prevent blindness and, most importantly, we can reduce overall child mortality by 23-34%.

The Philippine government has been implementing programs to address vitamin A deficiency, including capsule supplementation, food fortification, dietary diversification, and promotion of optimal breastfeeding. These programs are effective, however, many people live in areas that are difficult to reach and as a result, the most vulnerable are often missed.

Golden Rice is a new type of rice that we are developing with the Philippines that we hope could help reduce vitamin A deficiency. We are currently conducting field tests in different parts of the country not only to make sure Golden Rice meets the farmers' and consumers' expectations, but also to check that it is safe for people and for the environment. The trials are an essential part of the scientific research process that helps us learn about Golden Rice and find out if it could be a safe and effective way to help reduce vitamin A deficiency.
Golden Rice field trial

Dr. Antonio Alfonso at the Golden Rice field trialThe field trials are being conducted by scientists at the Department of Agriculture - Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA - PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The field trials were permitted by the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI), the national regulatory authority in the Philippines for crop biotechnology research and development, after establishing that the trials will pose no significant risks to human health and environment. This assessment was based on a step-wise evaluation that included contained and confined field evaluations.

We all want to answer questions about Golden Rice. Therefore, we need to test it and test it according to the best and most rigorous research standards. This means continuing field trials to ensure there is adequate data and analysis that will enable informed decisions on Golden Rice.

I call my fellow Filipinos to support our quest to look for solutions to help solve vitamin A deficiency. Nutrition Month July has come to an end in the Philippines, but here at IRRI our dedication and commitment to better nutrition for everyone in the Philippines continues – we're here for the long term and Golden Rice is part of our strategy to help deliver more nutritious diets and healthier rice.

The Philippines is a leader in working towards ending malnutiriton with many agencies and NGOs doing important and valuable work to help, including the Department of Health, National Nutrition Council, and the Food and Nutrition Research Institute. We join them in their efforts.

Together we can end hunger and malnutrition! Gutom at malnutrisyon, sama-sama nating wakasan!

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About the Author

Dr. V. Bruce J. Tolentino

Dr. V. Bruce J. Tolentino

Bruce is the deputy director general of communications and partnerships at IRRI. He is responsible for a portfolio of operating units at IRRI and is the lead point of liaison between the Philippine government and IRRI.

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