Manila, Philippines —“Bigas ng Pinas” or local varieties of traditional and modern rice are healthier and have lower heavy metal residue compared to imported rice varieties.

Speaking at “Rice and Shine,” the digital launch of National Rice Awareness Month held on the Be RICEponsible Facebook Page on November 11, 2020, Dr. Marissa V. Romero, Chief Science Research Specialist of PhilRice, explained how traditional rice variants boast of antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-hyperlipidemic and anti-cancer properties (Mbanjo et al., 2020). Among these are locally-harvested varieties of brown rice, germinated brown rice, and unpolished pigmented (black or red) rice, all of which are recommended alternatives to white rice.

Locally-grown modern rice varieties like the NSIC Rc 222 (Tubigan 18), Rc 160 (Tubigan 14), and Rc 218SR (Mabango 3) are also healthy, as they have been found to have lower heavy metal and pesticide residue compared to imported rice variants, some of which exceed the maximum residue limit.

Heavy metal contamination in cereal crops such as rice are often caused by mining, fertilizers, pesticides, and sewage sludge and can lead to serious health risks such as hypertension, skin disease, and neurological defects (Qaiser, 2019). These risks are diminished when consuming local rice, which have reduced levels of heavy metal residue due to  improved crop management practices and minimal use of pesticides among Filipino farmers.

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The numerous health benefits of consuming locally-harvested rice, as well as the benefits to Filipino farmers and the local economy, are at the center of the “Grow Local. Buy Local. Eat Local.” campaign of this year’s National Rice Awareness Month.

With farmgate prices of palay at a low of Php14 per kilo on average, promoting the consumption of local rice, whether traditional or modern varieties, is expected to not only help regulate supply and demand for the benefit of our farmers, but to also help improve individual nutrition and public health in the country.

Photos from First Light Studios for PhilRice