The Philippines may be the first country to approve the commercial production of genetically modified rice.
The controversial ‘golden rice’ has been genetically modified to produce vitamin A in an effort to combat widespread deficiencies of the vitamin in many developing nations.
Anti GM activists attacked one of the golden rice test fields in the Philippines in August last year stating that the GM product is riddled with potentially harmful side effects, and will eventually spread to taint non-GMO crops, Yahoo7 reports.
The Philippine government’s agricultural department together with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said that despite the vandalism of one of the crops, golden rice has completed the necessary field trials and is now set to undergo tests to determine the safety of the product.
"Golden rice is coming. That is in the pipeline and a lot of the principal development and research has been completed," said Achim Dobermann, deputy director-general of IRRI.
"At the moment, there is no GM rice officially released in any country."
Environmental group Greenpeace has been campaigning against the commercialisation of golden rice stating that effective solutions designed to address vitamin A deficiencies – which can cause blindness and weakened immune systems – are already in place.
"There are already existing solutions and programmes being implemented by the Philippine government to address vitamin A deficiency in the country and these have been in place and are continuing to be effective," Greenpeace campaigner Daniel Ocampo said in a statement.
Depending on the length of the approval process, the International Rice Research Institute says that it could be anywhere between two-three years before the GM seeds are distributed to farmers.