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IRRI lead scientist on Golden Rice recognized by Philippine plant science community

The Crop Science Society of the Philippines (CSSP) recently presented the Achievement Award in Research to Dr. B.P. Mallikarjuna Swamy, Senior Scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), for his significant contributions in the improvement of the nutritional value of rice, and in particular for his outstanding research on Golden Rice that contributed to its food regulatory approval in the country.

Presented during the virtual 2nd FPSAP (Federation of Plant Science Associations of the Philippines) Scientific Conference last 2 September 2021, the award was in recognition of Dr. Swamy’s expertise and commitment to his work that led to the development of important researches for Golden Rice, specifically rice biofortification using transgenic methods and introgressing genes for beta-carotene production in the endosperm of rice.

In the Philippines, Golden Rice was developed by the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice) in partnership with IRRI to contain additional levels of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Around one in five children from the poorest communities in the Philippines suffer from vitamin A deficiency, which affects an estimated 190 million children worldwide. The condition is the most common cause of childhood blindness, as well as a contributing factor to a weakened immune system. Golden Rice is genetically engineered to provide up to 50 percent of the estimated average requirement (EAR) for vitamin A of young children, the age group most susceptible to VAD in the Philippines.

CSSP cited Dr. Swamy’s major role in the issuance of the Golden Rice Propagation Permit in the Philippines, which made Filipino farmers the first in the world to plant Golden Rice for commercial use. His rigorous studies on Golden Rice’s food compositional analysis and safety provided the Philippines regulatory system for genetically modified organisms (GMO) the evidence needed to approve the planting of this biofortified rice in the country.

Dr. Swamy was also lauded for his collaborations and relationships with national research partners, and his substantial contributions to Philippine agriculture and to the broader Filipino community. “B.P.’s contributions to rice science as well as food and nutritional security will stand to benefit millions as these new varieties are disseminated and grown,” said Tonette P. Laude, Chair of the Awards and Recognition Committee of CSSP.

Aside from his work on Golden Rice, Dr. Swamy is also active in other rice biofortification efforts at IRRI. He is a lead scientist in the institute’s Healthier Rice Program, which is currently developing high iron and zinc rice (HIZR) that aims to develop a stacked rice variety containing beta-carotene, iron, and zinc that can help address multiple micronutrient deficiencies affecting over two billion people worldwide.