Biotech crops offer economic benefits

The economic benefits of planting biotech crops can never be underscored enough. According to the latest report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), Filipino farmers who planted Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn from 2003 to 2015 earned an estimated $642 million. For 2015 alone, ISAAA said farm income reached around $82 million. At the average exchange rate of P45.50 to the greenback, corn farmers netted P3.73 billion in 2015.
 

According to ISAAA, the Philippines ranks 12th in biotech crop commercialization for 2016, when 812,000 hectares of biotech maize have been planted. This is 16 percent higher than the 702,000 hectares planted with Bt corn in 2015. Data from the ISAAA also showed that adoption rates also increased last year to 65 percent, from 63 percent in 2015. The number of small farmers growing on average 2 hectares of Bt corn in the Philippines last year was estimated at 406,000, according to ISAAA.

Bt corn was the first genetically modified crop to be commercialized in the Philippines since 2002, when the government rolled out a regulatory framework that is considered a model in Southeast Asia. “The Philippines continues to be at the forefront of biotech research and commercialization in Southeast Asia and has a model for science-based and thorough regulatory policy in the region,” the ISAAA said in its report. Despite this, however, only one crop—Bt corn—has been commercialized.

There are a number of biotech crops that are currently in the pipeline: Golden Rice, Bt cotton, biotech papaya with delayed ripening and papaya ring spot virus, and the controversial fruit and shoot borer resistant Bt eggplant. The prospects of commercializing Bt eggplant, or Bt talong, dimmed when the Supreme Court (SC) ruled in December 2015 to stop its field testing. The SC also halted the processing of applications for contained use, field testing, propagation, commercialization and importation of GM products when it nullified Administrative Order 8 issued by the Department of Agriculture in 2002.

While the SC reversed its decision in August 2016, proponents of Bt talong have yet to push through with the field testing of the crop. Other crops in the pipeline, such as the Golden Rice, have yet to reach the field testing stage. But because it is the country’s staple, Golden Rice’s commercialization will not be smooth sailing. This, despite the absence of definitive proof that GM crops are harmful to human health and the existence of a regulatory framework that is regarded as worth emulating in other parts of the region.

Biotech crops, such as Bt corn, allow farmers to save on production cost because they will no longer have to extensively use pesticides to kill the corn borer insect. For now, only corn farmers in the Philippines are reaping the benefits offered by biotech crops. Hastening the commercialization of other biotech crops would allow more Filipino farmers to enjoy higher incomes and help them get out of poverty.

-Published in BusinessMirror.  See original article linke here.

 

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