Biotech crops to be in more local farms

THROUGH a Joint Department Circular (JDC) empowering development of biotech crops in the country, biotech rice, papaya, cotton, and eggplant are expected to be fully implemented in local farms after most of the crops were already through with the field trial stages.

University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) researcher doctor Lourdes Taylo said developing biotech will address agricultural dilemma on insect-resistant and disease-resistant traits and the losses that come with pest infestation.

Taylo also said excessive pesticide application can be hazardous to health and the environment.

The JDC comprises of different government agencies such as the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Health, and Department of the Interior and Local Government.

“Corn is the only biotech product currently continuously planted in the country since 2003. Philippines is the top 13 biotech producer out of the 26 countries worldwide. We are only one out of the eight countries in the Asia Pacific region planting biotech corn. Since 2003 when it was approved for commercial planting, there is no report or documented study that says it has a bad effect on human, animals, and the environment,” said Taylo, who was a guest during the public briefing on Biotechnology last Wednesday, August 16.

Taylo said the primary reason for development of Golden Rice is the Vitamin A and mineral deficiencies found on humans. This is a research study spearheaded by the International Rice Research Institute and Philippine Rice Research Institute.

“What they did, they got genes from corn and gene from a bacterium and inserted in ordinary rice to come up with golden rice. When someone eats about a cup of golden rice, it would supply about 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin for adult,” she said, adding that scientists made sure about the ratio of the beta carotene as with the yield and with disease resistance.

Taylo said the golden rice project has already completed with the single confine field trial and is already applying for field trial approval.

As for papaya, the Institute of Plant Breeding of UPLB is currently working on a project to develop a papaya variety that has a lengthened ripening stage as compared to the usual six-day shelf life after color break.

Taylo said with this kind of variety, exporting of papaya would be a lot easier and convenient avoiding excess damages due to short shelf life.

The institute is working on a variety that would be resistant of the papaya ring spot virus disease by combining together carica papaya genes and vasconcellea quercifolia genes.

The Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority is developing cotton variety resistant to bollworm in order to address the losses related to cotton bollworm insect problem as well as to reduce synthetic insecticide application and exposure of farmers. The project has already completed its field trial.

With the same intent of reducing respiratory illnesses and skin disease due to synthetic sprays and fertilizers, the bacillus thuringensis (BT) talong variety is ongoing for development and full implementation.

Taylo said about 70 percent to 80 percent yield loss is recorded due to pests infesting the eggplant farms in the country.

Since most of these backyard farms are just near the houses, most of the times, kids inhale the synthetic chemicals.

Currently, the BT Talong project has completed the field trial stage and is already for application for food, feed, and procession.

“These biotech crops are developed to increase productivity, nutrition for the welfare of the farmers as well as for the safety of our products and the environment. Under the new JDC, research and evaluation of these products will be more rigorous so when they are released to the market, we will be sure that it is safe to eat and use,” Taylo said.

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-Written by Jennie D. Prado in SunStar Davao.  See original article link here.