BusinessMirror bags most awards in biotech journalism

The BusinessMirror garnered the most number of awards—four—at the 11th Jose G. Burgos Jr. Awards for Biotechnology Journalism during the awarding ceremonies held at a hotel in Quezon City on November 22.

Besides bagging the top prize in the Institutional Award for printing the most number of stories on biotechnology, BusinesMirror’s three reporters sweeped various awards.

Agriculture beat reporter Jasper Y. Arcalas won the second prize in News Category for his article “Use of high-yielding GM varities will allow farmers to export corn,” while Mindanao Bureau Chief Manuel T. Cayon took the second prize in Feature Category for his article “GM crops planted in 185-M ha worldwide.”

BusinessMirror photographer and Science reporter Stephanie Tumampos garnered the third prize in Feature Category for her article “Filipino scientists, regulators look into GMO perceptions.”

The reporters received cash prizes and plaques.

Meanwhile, James Konstantin Galvez of Manila Times won double first-prize awards for News and Features categories for his articles “Challenged Searca stresses ‘safe, scientific’ agri technologies” and “Searca seeks stronger law on biotech crops.” Ace June Perez of SunStar Davao bagged the third prize in News Category for his article “PH is top grower of GM crops in SEA.”

In the Institutional Category, The Manila Times took the second prize, while The Philippine Star and Manila Bulletin tied for the third prize.

The awards was first known as the Gawad Galing in Biotech Journalism and renamed Jose G. Burgos Jr. Awards for Biotech Journalism “in honor of the late Jose Burgos who was a journalist and a farmer.”

The Jose G. Burgos Jr. Awards has noted a jump in the number of stories churned out by reporters about biotechnology, with the increasing number of reports, indicating the continuing debate for and against biotechnology and genetic modification (GM) of crops to develop resistance to common plant pests and diseases, and improve the
quality of some crops.

The J. Burgos Media Services said the number of stories from newspapers that qualified for the first year of the awards in 2005 were only more than 100. This doubled in the following years and peaked to more than 1,000 stories.

The awards organizers acknowledged the controversy over biotechnology and GM crops as having ignited the interest in biotechnology.

Last year’s spike in the number of stories, for example, was pushed by the Supreme Court two rulings just months apart in succession, first in December 2015 stopping the further field trials for the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant, and then on July 2016, reversing the ruling.

That same year, the Joint Department Circular 01-2016 gathered the five Cabinet departments on Science, Environment , Agriculture, Health and the Interior and Local Governments to compose the one-stop evaluation and approval for field tests of genetically modified organisms.

These events generated a slew of stories for and against the issue,

A study of the Philippine media coverage conducted by the Cornell University-headquartered International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application (Isaaa) has also noted a decline in the use of metaphors to debunk claims of proponents of biotechnology, although it acknowledges the continuing debate over the issue.

“The coverage was high in terms of the number of articles, but sensationalism and speculations were evident, since a biotech crop was just introduced and commercialized in the country. Negative metaphors, such as ‘frankenfood’ and ‘poison’ were commonly used in the initial years of reporting,” the study said.

It said the Philippine media developed a matured editorial position over 17 years of modern biotechnology reporting.

The Isaaa study was titled “From Frankenfood to Light of Hope: 17 Years of Agri-biotech Reporting in the Philippines (2000-2016).”

-Written by Manuel Cayon in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.