This E-news Service provides news updates, announcements and events about biotechnology around the world, with focus on agri-biotech developments in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific. Information in this e-news service are gathered and posted bi-weekly by SEARCA BIC.
ISAAA Crop Biotech Update (CBU)
What is the latest on crop biotechnology? Find out the latest world developments in crop biotechnology that are of relevance to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The Crop Biotech Update, a weekly e-newsletter from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology (KC), features concise news every week and is also available through the KC subscription service.
This publication features the 17-year (2000-2016) study conducted by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (BIC). The study was conducted to see the trends in media reporting in print and online on agricultural biotechnology.
PUBLISHED BY: The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)
CITATION: Tome, Kristine Grace N., Mariechel J. Navarro, Sophia M. Mercado, and Maria Monina Cecilia A. Villena. Seventeen Years of Media Reportage of Biotechnology in the Philippines. Philippine Journal of Crop Science xx(xx): xx-xx.
The first 10 years (2000–2009) was initially published in 2011 covering the development and commercialization of biotech corn in the country as reported in print by the top three national dailies, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Philippine Star.
The following seven years (2010–2016) was published in 2017, covering the recent happenings in the Philippine biotechnology arena such as the research and development of biotech food crops, Bt eggplant (pest resistant eggplant) and Golden Rice (Vitamin A-enriched rice). Aside from the top three newspapers, articles published by Business Mirror were also included in the study because of its significant increase in the number of articles on agricultural biotechnology. Online articles from the four newspapers were also included in the study to get more holistic understanding of biotechnology discussion in the country. The articles were classified and analyzed according to type, topic, tone, focus, sources, media frames, and use of metaphors.
The Philippines was first country in Southeast Asia to plant biotech corn in 2003 after its approval for commercial planting in 2002. An estimated of 6.03 million hectares of land in the country was planted with biotech corn since then.
This infographics describes the Philippine adoption of biotech/GM crops in 2016. Despite a temporary decline in biotech/GM corn area in 2015, the Philippines has quickly rebounded production in 2016, when adoption rates for the crop increased due to the enormous benefits enjoyed by Filipino consumers, farmers and their families.
ISAAA and SEARCA BIC are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Tote-ally biotech Contest. The contest aimed to encourage the students’ creativity through print designs for white katsa bags. Entries featured designs on the theme of this year’s National Biotechnology Week (NBW) “Biotechnology: Partner in National Development.” The Contest was divided into high school and college levels.
The winners received certificates plus corresponding cash prizes of Php10,000, Php7,500, and Php5,000 for the first, second and third place, high school level; and Php17,600, Php12,500, and Php7,500 for the college level. The awarding took place on 25 November during the Closing Ceremony of the NBW in Quezon City.
College level winners
High school level winners
ABOUT THE CONTEST
This bag design contest is part of the celebration of the 12th National Biotechnology Week (NBW) and is being organized by the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) to involve Filipino students in the promotion and awareness of the benefits and potentials of biotechnology. The contest aims to encourage the students’ creativity through print designs for white katsa bags. Designs should center on this year’s NBW theme “Youth, Agriculture, and Biotechnology.”
The bag design contest is open to all Filipino students classified according to the following levels:
High school level – Grades 7-12 students
College level – College students
All interested applicants must submit a 5×5 square inch (with 300 pixel wide resolution) original bag print design in JPEG format.
The theme for the bag design making contest is “Youth, Agriculture, and Biotechnology.”
Designs must only include 2-3 colors. It may also include texts (i.e. one-liners about the theme).
All entries must be submitted on or before 2 November 2016 together with the designer’s full name, age, contact number, school, year level and course, and a scanned copy of his/her school ID. Entries shall be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Tote-ally biotech.”
Entries will be judged on 4 November 2016. Winners will be notified after judging of entries, and will be invited to the awarding ceremony on 25 November 2016 during the Closing Ceremony of NBW.
Prizes shall be:
High school level
First runner-up: Php10,000
Second runner-up: Php7,500
Third runner-up: Php5,000
First runner-up: Php17,500
Second runner-up: Php12,500
Third runner-up: Php7,500
Copyright of the graphic artwork remains with the artist. However, by entering this contest, all contestants grant ISAAA and SEARCA BIC the exclusive use to reproduce, distribute, display, and create derivative works of the entries for knowledge sharing initiatives and science popularization activities without further compensation to the artists.
II. Criteria for Judging
Entries will be judged using the following criteria:
Message and Content: 30%
Creativity and Presentation: 30%
Relevance to the theme: 10%
Here are some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) about biotechnology:
What is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology is a modern technology that makes use of organisms (or parts thereof) to: make or modify products; improve and develop microorganisms, plants or animals; or develop organisms for specific purposes in a more
Tools of biotechnology can be used to make products for agricultural, industrial, medical, and environmental applications.
How is biotechnology different from the traditional way of improving crops?
Biotechnology allows scientists to precisely introduce a desired character by being able to insert only specific genes into a plant. Traditional crop improvement entails a long process of hybridization and selection. It involves numerous combinations of traits that require a large population to be able to select a plant with the desired trait.
What is the scientific basis of biotechnology?
All plants, animals, and living organisms have cells, the basic unit of life. Within cells are hereditary materials generally composed of deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA). These hereditary materials (that determine a trait) are called
genes. Through biotechnology, the gene fragments can be inserted from one organism to another, within related and unrelated species, to improve specific traits.
What are the tools used in biotechnology?
Gene Cloning – identification and isolation of specific DNA fragments that are introduced into a self-replicating genetic element so that the fragment can be reproduced and expressed in the target organism.
Tissue Culture – a technique that involves culturing plant parts and animal cells under laboratory conditions.
Microbial culture – a method of multiplying microbial organisms.
DNA-marker technology – involves the identification of DNA fragments associated with a certain desired trait and its utilization.
Genetic Engineering – the manipulation, introduction, and expression of specific genes or DNA in the target organisms. This is the method used in developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology,” and sometimes, “recombinant DNA technology.”
Why do we need crop biotechnology?
To be able to develop crops with increased yield; improved food, nutrient and other agronomic qualities; multiple disease and insect resistance; and tolerance to abiotic stresses in a short and precise manner.
What is a GM/biotech crop?
A GM/biotech or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.
How are novel genes inserted into plants?
Several methods currently exist for introducing transgenes into plant genomes. The most commonly used involves a device called “biolistic or gene gun.” The DNA to be introduced into the plant cells is coated on to tiny gold or tungsten particles. These particles are then physically shot into plant cells. Some of the DNA comes off and is incorporated into the DNA of the recipient plant.
Another method uses the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens to introduce the gene(s) of interest into the plant DNA through transfection. The cells are screened to identify which successfully took up the desired gene and are then evaluated for the expression of the new trait. When crops reach the field stage, the seeds are sown in the field and grown the same way as any other crop. These plants just have the new and desired trait.
Why make GM/biotech crops?
GM technology can address problems that cannot be solved through conventional crop improvement methods.
It enables plant breeders to bring together in one plant useful genes from a wide range of sources, not just from within the crop species or closely related plants.
This powerful tool allows plant breeders to attain a desired trait combination faster and address urgent
concerns like the development of crops that are resistant to biotic (diseases and pests) or abiotic stresses (drought
and waterlogging), and with increased yield and improved food and nutrient quality.
How do you select the variety of a crop to be improved?
Popular varieties are selected to be the target of crop improvement through genetic engineering. These varieties are already being widely planted and accepted by the farmers but needs improvement in one or more characters.
Who produces GM crops?
Early generations of GM crops were developed in industrialized countries mainly in North America and Western Europe. Recently, however, many research and development on GM crops are being done in developing
countries, like the Philippines, which have established the capacity for genetic engineering.
What were the first GM/biotech plants?
GM petunia and GM tobacco were produced in 1983 in laboratories in the USA and Belgium.
When was the first GM/biotech crop commercialized?
In 1994, Calgene’s delayed-ripening tomato (Flavr-Savr™) became the first genetically modified food crop to be produced and consumed in an industrialized country. In 1995, GM cotton with resistance to herbicide and GM corn
with insect resistance were subsequently commercialized. GM corn is now planted in developing countries like the Philippines.
What are the GM/biotech crops available in the market?
Most of the GM crops currently on the market have an increased level of crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant pests and diseases caused by insects, viruses, or other pathogens. Others have an increased tolerance towards herbicides.
Insect resistance is achieved by incorporating the gene for toxin production from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) into the crop. This bacterium has been widely used as conventional microbial insecticide in agriculture since the 1930s.
GM crops that permanently produce this toxin have been shown to require lower quantities of insecticides in specific situations, e.g. where pest pressure is high. Several Bt corn varieties are already propagated and marketed in the Philippines.
Virus resistance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from certain disease-causing viruses. Virus resistance makes plants less susceptible to these viral diseases, minimizing damage to the plant and resulting in higher crop yields. Papaya ringspot virus resistant papayas are already being cultivated and consumed in the USA and China.
Herbicide tolerance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from a bacterium conveying resistance to some herbicides. This allows herbicides to be used to control weeds without harming the crop. Herbicide tolerant soybean is the most planted GM crop in the world – 75% of the global area devoted to soybean is planted to GM soybean.
Where are GM/biotech crops grown?
The area planted to GM crops increased from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to over 185.1 million hectares in 2016, making biotech crops the fasted adopted crop technology in recent times.
In 2016, there were 26 countries planting biotech crops, comprised of 19 developing countries and 7 industrial countries. They were, in order of hectarage, USA, Brazil, Argentina, India, Paraguay, Pakistan, China, South Africa, Uruguay, Bolivia, Australia, Philippines, Myanmar, Spain, Sudan, Mexico, Colombia, Vietnam, Honduras, Chile, Portugal, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Slovakia, Czech Republic (ISAAA, 2016).
In the Philippines, the genetically engineered corn resistant to borer insects was first commercially planted in 2003. In 2016, the area planted to biotech maize in the Philippines increased to 812,000 hectares from 702,000 hectares in 2015 (ISAAA, 2016).
Why are GM/biotech crops not grown in some parts of the world?
Reasons why some countries do not grow GM crops may be as follows: the absence of a biosafety regulatory framework, public non-acceptance of GM products, and trade issues relating to organic farming.
What are the benefits of GM/biotech crops?
Among the documented benefits of GM crops include:
Higher crop yields
Reduced farm costs
Increased farm profit
Improved health and cleaner and safer environment
Improved soil quality
Are GM/biotech crops appropriate for developing countries?
Developing countries can benefit from GM crops by being able to increase food production, lower production cost and food prices, improve food quality and preserve the environment. The new generation of nutritionally enhanced GM crops could also play a key role in helping alleviate micronutrient malnutrition and generate affordable and accessible pharmaceuticals and vaccines for many developing countries.
What are the other potential benefits/uses of GM/biotech crops?
Food production – this is an area in which biotechnology plays a significant role in the production of ingredients, vitamins, starter cultures and enzymes for food processing.
Agriculture – fruits and vegetables can be improved in appearance, taste, nutrient content, storage life, resistance to certain pests and even stability under unfavorable climatic conditions.
Environmental management – biotechnology offers new opportunities for the protection of the environment. For example, genetically modified bacteria may one day be used to convert organic wastes to useful products or clean up oil spills.
Medicine – some types of insulin are examples of biotechnology products. Biotechnology also offers new methods for producing critical vaccines at a lower cost.
Will GM/biotech crops wipe out and replace varieties from traditional breeding? Why?
No, GM crops will in no way replace varieties from traditional breeding because genetic modification is only conducted to introduce important major genes to the already established and bred varieties. Genetic modification,
therefore, is conducted to further improve the already existing popular and high-yielding varieties.
Likewise, a transgenic variety can be used in crop improvement and breeding programs.
Why are GM/biotech foods assessed differently from traditional foods?
With GM foods, most national authorities consider that specific assessments are necessary. Similar evaluations are generally not performed for traditional foods. Hence, there is a significant difference in the evaluation process prior to marketing for these two groups of food.
Generally, consumers consider that traditional foods (that have often been eaten for thousands of years) are safe. When new foods are developed by natural methods, some of the existing characteristics of foods can be altered, either in a positive or a negative way.
National food authorities may be called upon to examine traditional foods, but this is not always the case. Indeed, new plants developed through traditional breeding techniques may not be evaluated rigorously using risk assessment techniques.
ISAAA. 2016. Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016. ISAAA Brief No. 52. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.