Challenges in commercializing biotech crops tackled in seminar

Challenges in commercializing biotech crops tackled in seminar

Socio-economic considerations, multiple agency review, labeling, and legal court challenges are the major obstacles in getting biotech crops to farmers, according to Senior Legal Consultant of the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) Atty. Gregory Jaffe, who presented in the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on July 24, 2017 in his talk titled “GM Crops to Farmers: Curves in the Roads.” An example cited was the court case filed against Bt eggplant in the Philippines which is more of a procedural issue than a technical one. According to Atty. Jaffe, the key is transparent and predictable biosafety regulatory procedures that anticipate and address the said issues before a product is approved for release.

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Pangasinan stakeholders learn about Bt brinjal, affirm support for Bt talong

Pangasinan stakeholders learn about Bt brinjal, affirm support for Bt talong

Farmers, local government constituents, and other key stakeholders in the province of Pangasinan, Philippines expressed their backing for, and willingness to adopt Bt talong(eggplant) by signing a declaration of support for its commercialization during a seminar with key people involved in the development and commercialization of Bangladesh’s Bt brinjal last July 27, 2017 at Pangasinan State University (PSU)-Sta. Maria Campus.

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‘Bt talong’ has no adverse impacts on nontarget insects, research shows

GENETICALLY modified (GM) Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) talong (eggplant) has no negative impacts on the biological diversity of nontarget organisms, the first-ever field-level study of the effects of insect-resistant Bt eggplants on nontarget arthropod species showed.

The study was carried out in the Philippines by researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) working with Cornell University. It has been published in the prestigious open-access scientific journal PLOS One.

The data, collected over three growing seasons in the Philippines’s main eggplant-growing region of Pangasinan, shows no significant differences between the number of insects and other arthropods and species between the GM Bt and non-Bt control eggplants. Anthropods include insects and spiders.

This finding is consistent with previous studies on insect-resistant Bt crops, such as cotton and corn, the study authors pointed out. The study came after the Supreme Court unanimous decision reversing its earlier ruling that temporarily stopped the field testing of the GM eggplant.

The paper is entitled “Assessing Potential Impact of Bt Eggplants on Non-Target Arthropods in the Philippines” and was published on October 31. The author of the study, which was subjected to PLOS One’s rigorous scientific peer review, is Dr. Desiree Hautea, professor of crop biotechnology of UPLB’s Institute of Plant Breeding, College of Agriculture.

“This first published report from extensive field studies of Bt eggplants affirms that the technology is ecologically benign,” Hautea asserted. Study coauthor Dr. Anthony Shelton, international professor of entomology at Cornell University, welcomed the publication of the results.

He commented: “This study confirms the environmental safety of Bt eggplant to non-target organisms under field conditions in the Philippines. Our previous study, published earlier in the same journal, documented the effectiveness of Bt eggplant against the destructive eggplant fruit and shoot borer. Combined, these studies clearly document the benefits of Bt eggplant to growers, farm workers, consumers and the environment.”

The study was funded by United States Agency for International Development, with match funding provided by the University of the Philippines Los Baños and the Philippine government’s Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program Office (the funders had no direct role in the study, however).

The eggplants used were varieties (purple, long fruits) preferred by Filipino farmers and consumers, with the Bt gene crossbred into them from an original transformation event carried out in India by the seed company Mahyco, which donated its genetic technology to the project.  The field trials were carried out between March 2010 and October 2012.

Bt eggplant could be of significant benefit to Filipino farmers and consumers, the study authors suggest, because conventional eggplant is typically sprayed with insecticide up to 72 times during the 180-day cropping season to control infestation by the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB) pest. Bt eggplant, as a previous study by the same authors has demonstrated, is fully resistant to the fruit and shoot borer pest, so it does not require pesticide sprays to prevent damage by this insect.

Filipino farmers use broad-spectrum insecticides for the conventional control of EFSB, including profenofos, triazophos, chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin and malathion.

In contrast, EFSB-resistant Bt eggplant varieties can be grown by farmers as part of a more ecologically friendly integrated pest management agricultural system.

-Published in BusinessMirror.  See article link here.

Philippines field research shows no negative impacts from Bt eggplant on non-target arthropods

The first-ever field level study of the effects of insect-resistant genetically modified Bt eggplants on non-target arthropod species, carried out in the Philippines by researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) working with Cornell University, has been published in the prestigious open-access scientific journal PLOS One.

The data, collected over three growing seasons in the Philippines’ main eggplant-growing region of Pangasinan, shows no significant differences between the number of insects and other arthropod individuals and species between the genetically modified Bt and non-Bt control eggplants.

This finding that genetically modified Bt eggplant has no negative impacts on the biological diversity of non-target organisms is consistent, the study authors point out, with previous studies on insect-resistant Bt crops such as cotton and corn. The paper is entitled “Assessing Potential Impact of Bt Eggplants on Non-Target Arthropods in the Philippines” and was published on Oct. 31, 2016.

The corresponding author of the study, which was subjected to PLOS One’s rigorous scientific peer review, is Dr. Desiree Hautea, professor of crop biotechnology of UPLB’s Institute of Plant Breeding, College of Agriculture. “This first published report from extensive field studies of Bt eggplants affirms that the technology is ecologically benign,” Hautea asserted.

Study co-author Dr. Anthony Shelton, international professor of entomology at Cornell University, welcomed the publication of the results. He commented: “This study confirms the environmental safety of Bt eggplant to non-target organisms under field conditions in the Philippines. Our previous study, published earlier in the same journal, documented the effectiveness of Bt eggplant against the destructive eggplant fruit and shoot borer. Combined, these studies clearly document the benefits of Bt eggplant to growers, farm workers, consumers and the environment.”

The study was funded by USAID, with match funding provided by the University of the Philippines Los Baños and the Philippine government’s Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program Office (the funders had no direct role in the study, however). The eggplants used were varieties (purple, long fruits) preferred by Filipino farmers and consumers, with the Bt gene crossbred into them from an original transformation event carried out in India by the seed company Mahyco, which donated its genetic technology to the project. The field trials were carried out between March 2010 and October 2012.

Bt eggplant could be of significant benefit to Filipino farmers and consumers, the study authors suggest, because conventional eggplant is typically sprayed with insecticide up to 72 times during the 180-day cropping season to control infestation by the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB) pest. Bt eggplant, as a previous study by the same authors has demonstrated, is fully resistant to the fruit and shoot borer pest, so it does not require pesticide sprays to prevent damage by this insect.

Filipino farmers use broad-spectrum insecticides for the conventional control of EFSB, including profenofos, triazophos, chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin and malathion. In contrast, EFSB-resistant Bt eggplant varieties can be grown by farmers as part of a more ecologically-friendly “integrated pest management” (IPM) agricultural system. Using resistant varieties as a foundation, IPM includes such techniques as sex pheromones for trapping adults and disrupting mating, removing infested plant parts and more selective and sparing use of chemical insecticides. Cornell’s Professor Shelton is an internationally-recognized expert on IPM.

IPM is more ecologically friendly, the researchers state, because “agriculture depends on several arthropod groups performing ecological functions such as decomposition, pollination and biological control that are essential to soil health and crop productivity.” Broad-spectrum insecticides kill a wide variety of these non-target arthropods, reducing the useful ecological functions they are able to perform and harming overall biodiversity in the field.

The PLOS One paper concludes:

“Farmers would gain profits because the technology would reduce EFSB damage, increase the marketable yield and lower production costs. Consumers would have an adequate supply of safer eggplant at a lower price. The adoption of Bt eggplant is projected to greatly reduce pesticide use on eggplant, thereby reducing both pesticide loading in the environment and hazards to farm laborers and consumers. Bt eggplant presents a more efficacious, environmentally benign and profitable alternative to the current practice of intense use of chemical insecticides in eggplant production.”

-Written in Cornell Alliance for Science.  See article link here.

FAQs: Bt Eggplant

FAQs: Bt Eggplant

Eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) is a vegetable with worldwide importance. It can have oval, elongated and round fruits that are striped or plain-colored, ranging from dark purple, light purple, green, yellow to white. The fruits are used in many cuisines. They are boiled, stewed, roasted, pickled, fried, or baked. In the Philippines, eggplant is a popular ingredient in dishes such as pinakbet, torta, sinigang, ensalada, and kare-kare.

Why is eggplant important?

  • Eggplant is a good source of vitamins, fibers, and minerals.
  • Eggplant is the leading vegetable crop in the Philippines in terms of area and volume of production.
  • Small-scale farmers in many provinces grow eggplant and depend on it for their livelihood.

What are the major constraints to eggplant production?
Eggplant production suffers yield losses from pests, diseases and extreme environmental conditions. The most destructive insect pest of eggplant in the Philippines and other Asian countries is the Fruit and Shoot Borer (FSB). Eggplant yield losses from 51 to 73% due to FSB have been reported in the country.

 

fsb_eggs_eggplantleaf

How does FSB damage eggplant production?
FSB can cause significant yield loss and reduce the number of marketable fruits. Female moths deposit eggs mostly on eggplant leaves. Upon hatching, the young larvae, after an hour or two of probing, feed on the leaf tissues and tunnel inside shoots, resulting in wilting or drying up.

When the fruits are available, the caterpillar bores inside the fruit, producing feeding tunnels. This makes the fruits unfit for market.

fsb

How do farmers control and manage FSB?
The majority of farmers still rely on heavy use of insecticide sprays, which are mostly effective only against newly-hatched FSB caterpillars that have not yet tunneled into the plant. Farmers can also use different ways to control the pest such as:
• follow regular crop rotation or intercrop the eggplant with other vegetables;
• use nylon net barriers to protect plants from the insects;
• trap male insects using pheromones to prevent insect mating;
• grow eggplants in a screenhouse before transplanting into the field;
• judicious pesticide use to keep populations of natural enemies of FSB; and
• harvest fruits frequently.

How can biotechnology offer a better alternative to traditional control methods?
Because of time and resource constraints, smallscale farmers desire pest control methods that do not require additional labor and material inputs. Labor intensive control methods such as manual removal of infested shoots, trapping of insects and application of netting are usually ineffective. Intensive pesticide use often leads to environmental and health issues, and increases the total production costs. There are no existing commercial varieties of eggplants with high resistance to FSB in the Philippines, and FSB-resistance is difficult to produce using conventional plant breeding. By using biotechnology to introduce FSB-resistance in eggplant, farmers may benefit from high yields of good quality fruits. They may also save on production and labor costs as less pesticide will be necessary to control the FSB.

What is FSB-resistant eggplant?
FSB-resistant (FSBR) eggplant is an insect resistant eggplant developed with the help of biotechnology. Also called Bt eggplant or Bt brinjal, it produces a natural protein that makes it resistant to FSB. Once the FSB caterpillars feed on plant leaves, shoots and fruits, they stop eating and eventually die. The Bt protein in the biotech eggplant only affects FSB and does not affect humans, farm animals, and other non-target organisms.

Bt Eggplant

What institutions are working on the development of FSBR eggplant?
The Indian Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Limited (Mahyco) has developed a highly resistant biotech eggplant. These eggplant lines have been used as source of FSB resistant trait of biotech eggplants in India, Bangladesh and the Philippines. The Institute of Plant Breeding at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (IPB-UPLB) is currently developing FSBR eggplant for the Philippines through partnership with Mahyco and Cornell University, and with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSP II), the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and Department of Agriculture of the Philippines.

Is FSBR eggplant safe to eat?
Before the FSBR eggplant is approved for commercial use, scientists andregulators ensure that it passes through many tests and safety assessments. In the Philippines, biosafety is evaluated in four stages:
(1) contained research in laboratories and screenhouses;
(2) small confined trials;
(3) multi-location field trials; and
(4) commercial release.

The National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) is responsible for evaluating the safety of FSBR eggplant under contained and confined conditions. The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and other regulatory agencies under the Department of Agriculture take charge of the safety assessment and monitoring during large field trials and prior to and after commercial release. In addition, the reduced use of chemicals on Bt eggplant will mean that less pesticide residue will remain on the fruit when it is brought to market.

Is FSBR eggplant already available in the market?
In the Philippines, this biotech eggplant is not yet commercially available. The promising varieties are still under the multilocation field trials and tests are continually being done to ensure safety and good performance of the product.

Once it is approved for commercial release, seeds will be made available to farmers. In India, similar FSBR eggplant varieties are near commercialization, and are in the later stages of evaluation and safety assessment.

For more information, contact: Dr. Desiree M. Hautea ABSPII Regional Coordinator and Product Development Manager, Email: dmh.uplb@gmail.com, Institute of Plant Breeding University of the Philippines Los Baños College, Laguna 4031, Telefax: (63-49) 536-5140

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

FAQs: Biotechnology and Its Applications

FAQs: Biotechnology and Its Applications

Updated June 2017

  • dsc04547

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
precise manner.

Tools of biotechnology can be used to make products for agricultural, industrial, medical, and environmental applications.

Download PDF copy of the brochure (5.4MB)
Download PDF copy of the brochure

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?

2017_faqs1bA 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?

2017_faqs1cThe 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?

2017_faqs1dDeveloping 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?

2017_faqs1eWith 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.

 

Reference:
ISAAA. 2016. Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016. ISAAA Brief No. 52. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.

2017_faqs1

COMMENTARY: Boost for Bt ‘talong’

The Filipino scientific community received a rare boost on Tuesday with the reversal by the Supreme Court of its ban on Bt “talong” after an appeal by researchers at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Bt talong is a genetically modified vegetable, developed for insect resistance so that farmers will be able to grow it without spraying large amounts of toxic pesticide. However, because of its superstition about all things “GMO,” the international group Greenpeace opposed Bt talong despite the crop’s pesticide-reducing approach.

Bt talong field trials were conducted by scientists based at UP Los Baños between 2010 and 2012. Activists from Greenpeace attacked and destroyed some of the plants in 2011, although they apparently targeted the wrong crop by mistake. Greenpeace also applied for and received a Writ of Kalikasan, which was upheld by the Supreme Court last December.

As I wrote in the Inquirer at that time, the Supreme Court’s initial decision was a “dark day for science” (“Dark day for science,” Opinion, 12/15/15). So with the reversal of that decision, it feels like a new day is dawning: Public sector biotechnology, which can clearly make agriculture more environmentally sustainable, has a future in the Philippines, after all. Let us together celebrate that.

This decision by the Supreme Court comes hard on the heels of a new paper, published in a prestigious scientific journal, that proved conclusively that Bt talong is virtually 100-percent effective in controlling the main pest, the devastating fruit and shoot borer caterpillar.

Bt talong produces a protein that is harmless to humans but causes caterpillars to cease feeding. Organic growers already use Bt protein as a spray, but it is far more effective and just as safe when produced by the plant.

Talong, known internationally as eggplant, is an important vegetable crop in the Philippines, as elsewhere in Asia. Because the fruit and shoot borer pest is so destructive, farmers are forced to spray toxic insecticides up to 70 times during the growing season to prevent insect damage and make the crop marketable.

The insecticides used by vegetable farmers on eggplant include profenofos, triazophos, chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin and malathion. Residues from their application have been found in both the soil of eggplant farms and in harvested fruits, so by eating conventional talong, consumers are exposed to potentially toxic chemicals.

Farmers and farm workers have complained of ailments such as skin irritation, redness of the eyes, muscle pains and headaches linked to exposure to these pesticides. The chemical runoff can also harm the environment, particularly waterways and other fragile ecological areas.

This latest scientific paper shows conclusively that Greenpeace was wrong, and that the Supreme Court is historically correct to recognize the mistake and reverse its decision. I hope the verdict is quickly acted upon, because every day that goes by without Bt talong adoption, more pesticides are unnecessarily being sprayed and more consumers and farmers are exposed to insecticide residues.

The way forward is already being shown in Bangladesh. The same Bt eggplant is now under wide cultivation by small farmers in that country. Farmers are free to share and save the genetically improved seeds, which have been developed in the public sector and released by the government agricultural research agency.

Preliminary data from Bangladesh show that Bt eggplant farmers in that country have cut insecticide use by 80 percent or more, dramatically reducing environmental damage and improving farmers’ health. It also improves livelihoods as smallholder farmers spend less on chemicals and so get more profit from their crop.

The Supreme Court’s reversal of its Bt talong ban shows encouragingly that antiscience misinformation does not always win the day. It will encourage scientists and farmers everywhere who want to use new technology to produce healthier crops at less cost to our fragile environment.

–Written by Mark Lynas, Philippine Daily Inquirer.  See article link here.

Mark Lynas is a British environmentalist, writer and visiting fellow at the Cornell Alliance for Science at Cornell University.

Bt talong case: Not quite a total victory but at least the science can go on

After so much anguish and frustration, this week’s decision of the Supreme Court (SC) reversing itself on the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) talong case came as a most welcome surprise to farmers and livestock raisers, the public regulators, and the science community.

Voting previously 12 versus zero, with three justices not participating, who would have thought that only six months later, eventually the same court would unanimously SET ASIDE its permanent injunction on the conduct of field tests of eggplant bioengineered to resist insect pests.

Instead, the High Court dismissed the petition for Writ of Continuing Mandamus and the Writ of Kalikasan and prayer for issuance of a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) filed by Greenpeace and other parties on the ground of mootness.

The Court agreed with the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) [the technology developer], UP Los Baños Foundation, Inc. (UPLBFI) and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) [the not-for-profit technology partners], the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) [the technology regulators], and Croplife (industry) that the case should have been dismissed in the first place for mootness in view of the completion of the field tests and termination of the biosafety permits. The court injunction was pointless because there were nothing to stop.

The Court further admitted it should have not resolved the case on its merits precisely due to its mootness and should not have acted on the constitutional question, i.e. whether the DA Administrative Order (AO) 8-2002 was constitutional, as this matter was only collaterally raised.

Not quite a total victory for the farmers and science but at least for now there is no impediment for the research to go on, for Filipino farmers to keep on planting high-yielding, very profitable Bt corn hybrids and for the feed industry to import genetically modified (GM) soybean meal to sustain the local poultry and livestock sector.

Results of the Bt Talong Field Tests

Actually the field tests confirmed that the technology works very well in farmers’ fields. The results of the tests were published by Desiree M. Hautea and her colleagues from UPLB and Cornell University in June, 2016 in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed, free access, on-line publication, reputedly the largest scientific journal of its kind in terms of numbers of papers published each year.

The trials compared five UPLB-Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB)-bred eggplant varieties with the inserted Bt gene from Bacillus thuringiensis versus their conventional non-GM, isogenic counterparts (or controls). They were conducted over three growing seasons in Pangasinan (the country’s leading eggplant producer, with about 30 percent of total production). The test fields were not sprayed with insecticides to control eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB) throughout the entire season.

The expression of Bt cry1Ac protein which confers insect resistance to EFSB was found to gradually increase from the seedling stage to the mature fruiting stage. This was the reverse of the phenomenon reported in Bt cotton. Moreover, the concentrations of the insecticidal proteins were highest in the shoots and fruits (where they are needed) and less in the stems and roots.

The Bt and non-Bt varieties were compared based on three parameters: percent insect-damaged shoots, percent insect-damaged fruits and number of insect larvae in fruits. In all these measures the Bt varieties were significantly much better than the non-GM controls.

In Trial 2 conducted during the regular eggplant planting season in Pangasinan when pest pressure was most severe, the conventional non-Bt varieties had 42 percent damaged shoots, 93 percent damaged fruits and 16 larvae per plot per harvest. The Bt varieties on the other hand were practically free from damage i.e. less than one percent shoot damage, less than two percent fruit damage and less than one larva per plot per harvest. This is almost 100 percent control without application of insecticide against EFSB.

Moreover, the adult moths reared from larvae collected from Bt plants did not produce viable eggs or offsprings.

In all field trial locations, there also was no evidence that the Bt talong caused harm or had any negative impact on the populations of non-target species, particularly beneficial arthropod species such as predators, pollinators and decomposers.

These results affirm the general environmental safety of the Cry1Ac protein and its specificity only to target species.

The Next Steps

With the field tests out of the way, confirming that Bt varieties are more than adequately protected from the dreaded eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB) insect, and that there is no evidence of collateral damage on non-target species, the technology proponents must now submit further evidence on the food and feed safety of the product.

However, since the cry1Ac gene is the same genetic event incorporated in GM soybean and GM cotton, both of which have received regulatory approval for direct use as food and feed and for processing by Philippine authorities and biosafety regulators in many developed and developing countries, the process should not take very long.

As a last requirement as a pest-protected plant, the Bt talong must be duly registered with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA).

Nobel laureates Say yes to GMOs

The High court made it clear that it did not rule on the merits of the case i.e. whether the prospective cultivation of Bt talong will prejudice the right of Filipinos to a balanced and healthful ecology. That will be up to Greenpeace and other GMO oppositors to return to the Courts to plead their case.

But this time along the new regulatory framework detailed in Joint Department Circular 01-2016 signed by DA, DOST, DENR, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) which superseded the previous DA AO 08-2002 which has been declared null and void by the SC.

Although there are still skeptics who refuse to recognize the potential value to mankind of GMO technology, the weight of scientific consensus in favor of GMO technology is abundantly clear from the published statements of the world’s leading academies of science and responsible development agencies.

Among those expressing support for GMOs are: the World Health organization (WHO-UN), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); the American Medical Association (AMA); the European Commission (EC); the National Academies of Sciences (NAS-USA); the Royal Society (UK); the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS); the Brazilian, Chinese, Indian and Mexican National Academies of Sciences, including our very own, National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST-Philippines).

The latest to come out in full support for GMOs in agriculture were 107 Nobel laureates (out of 296 living recipients) who in their press release of June 2016 had these to say:

. . . Organizations opposed to modern plant breeding, with Greenpeace at their lead, have repeatedly denied these facts (UN FAO: need to double food, feed and fiber production by 2050) and opposed biotechnological innovations in agriculture. They have misrepresented their risks, benefits, and impact, and supported the criminal destruction of approved field trials and projects.

. . . We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against “GMOs” and Golden Rice in particular.

***

Dr. Emil Q. Javier is a Member of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and also Chair of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP). For any feedback , email eqjavier@yahoo.com.

–Published in Manila Bulletin.  See article link here.

BIOTECH SHORTIES: Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant (1st Prize, Amateur)

BIOTECH SHORTIES: Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant (1st Prize, Amateur)


1st Prize, Amateur: Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant
Michaella Louise V. Candelario
University of the Philippines Los Banos / UP Agricultural Society

 


video_biotechshorties

BIOTECH SHORTIES: Video-making Contest

Organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate ...
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BIOTECH SHORTIES: Biotech in Everyday Life (1st Prize, Professional)

1st Place, Professional: Biotech in Everyday Life Anna Cherylle Ramos University of Sto. Tomas ...
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BIOTECH SHORTIES: Biotech in Everyday Life (2nd Prize, Professional)

2nd Prize: Biotech in Everyday Life Alvin Quiel C. Sabanal Calamba, Laguna ...
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BIOTECH SHORTIES: Biotech in Everyday Life (1st Prize, Amateur)

1st Prize, Amateur: Biotech in Everyday Life Marielle C. Cruz Polytechnic University of the Philippines ...
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video_bs_1stAmat_bteggplant

BIOTECH SHORTIES: Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant (1st Prize, Amateur)

1st Prize, Amateur: Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant Michaella Louise V. Candelario University of the Philippines Los Banos / UP ...
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/

BIOTECH SHORTIES: Video-making Contest

BIOTECH SHORTIES: Video-making Contest

Organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture – Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) in celebration of Philippines National Biotechnology Week in 2014, the “Biotech Shorties” seeked to express the perspectives of film makers on the benefits of modern biotechnology in agriculture through three-minute videos or “shorties.” Contestants focused on any of the two themes: ”Biotech in Everyday Life” and “Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant.”

“Biotech in Everyday Life” delves into documented benefits and applications of modern biotechnology. These may include actual and/or potential benefits, products, and impact of applying crop biotechnology in agriculture.

“Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant” focuses on the potential advantages of the insect-resistant Bt eggplant for farmers and consumers.

ELIGIBILITY
-OPEN to all Filipino Nationals except the staff of ISAAA and SEARCA and their immediate relatives. Joining the contest is free of charge.

CATEGORIES:

Professional and Amateur. The Professional category covers practicing film makers. The Amateur category is limited to ENROLLED undergraduate and high school students. The contestant/s must indicate in his/her entry the chosen theme and category.

GUIDELINES FOR ENTRIES
An entry should be a narrative in video format with a minimum playing time of two (2) minutes and a maximum playing time of three (3) minutes. Entries may be in English or Filipino. They may be live-action, animation or a combination of both. The messages of the videos must be based on proven facts. Contestants may use original, royalty-free, or copyrighted music for the videos. However, contestants who will use copyrighted music must submit a permit to use. A contestant may join in both themes, but may only submit one entry per theme.

File formats: mpeg, mp4, or avi. The file name of each entry should follow this format: category_lastname_firstname (Example: amateur_delacruz_juan.avi).

Entries were submitted in sealed envelope containing the following:
(1) Two (2) soft copies of the entry saved in separate CDs or flash disks.
(2) Sheet of paper with the following details, where appropriate:

– Name
– Age
– Signature
– School/Organization
– Position (if applicable)
– Contact numbers
– E-mail address
– Mailing address
– Topic – “Biotech in Everyday Life” or “Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant”
– Category – Professional or Amateur

(3) Permit to use if copyrighted music was used in the entry.

The contestant indicated his or her category on the upper left corner of the envelope.

CRITERIA FOR JUDGING
All video entries in both categories were judged based the following criteria:

Original Concept: 40%
Creative Production: 40%
* Directing
* Cinematography
* Musical Scoring
Relevance to the Theme: 20%
100%

Check out and ‘Like’ our Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/BiotechShorties .

VIDEO SHOWING AND PRIZE-GIVING
The winning entries were shown during the 10th National Biotechnology Week celebration on November 24-28, 2014.

PRIZES:

“Biotech in Everyday Life”
Professional
1st place – Php 70,000
2nd place – Php 30,000

Amateur
1st place – Php 50,000
2nd place – Php 20,000

“Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant”
Professional
1st place – Php 70,000
2nd place – Php 30,000

Amateur
1st place – Php 50,000
2nd place – Php 20,000

COPYRIGHT
ISAAA and SEARCA BIC have the copyright and exclusive use to publish online, reproduce, distribute, display, and create derivative works of all the entries for knowledge sharing initiatives and science popularization activities without further compensation to the artists.


video_biotechshorties

BIOTECH SHORTIES: Video-making Contest

Organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate ...
Read More
/
video_bs_1stprof

BIOTECH SHORTIES: Biotech in Everyday Life (1st Prize, Professional)

1st Place, Professional: Biotech in Everyday Life Anna Cherylle Ramos University of Sto. Tomas ...
Read More
/
video_bs_2ndprof

BIOTECH SHORTIES: Biotech in Everyday Life (2nd Prize, Professional)

2nd Prize: Biotech in Everyday Life Alvin Quiel C. Sabanal Calamba, Laguna ...
Read More
/
video_bs_1stAmat

BIOTECH SHORTIES: Biotech in Everyday Life (1st Prize, Amateur)

1st Prize, Amateur: Biotech in Everyday Life Marielle C. Cruz Polytechnic University of the Philippines ...
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/
video_bs_1stAmat_bteggplant

BIOTECH SHORTIES: Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant (1st Prize, Amateur)

1st Prize, Amateur: Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant Michaella Louise V. Candelario University of the Philippines Los Banos / UP ...
Read More
/

Agricultural Biotechnology in the Philippines

AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY IN THE PHILIPPINES

In 2016, the area planted to biotech maize in the Philippines increased to 812,000 hectares from 702,000 hectares in 2015 due to favorable weather conditions in the country.

Read more

Pinoy, foreign scientists re-tackle BT eggplant, biotech fears

You’ve heard the term biotechnology before. Defined as “any technique that uses whole or part of a living thing to make new products, improve or develop plants, animals and other organisms for specific use,” biotechnology has many applications. Biotechnology is responsible for life-saving vaccines and fertilizers.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), “Traditional biotechnology includes fermentation to produce common products such as vinegar, soy sauce and wine.”

ISAAA-SEARCA celebration
On April 29, ISAAA, together with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the global commercialization of biotech crops at a media conference in Muntinlupa City. Filipino and Bangladeshi scientists discussed advances made in the field of biotechnology in 2015. In particular, the conference highlighted the progress and acceptance of genetically modified eggplant, or Bt Brinjal, in Bangladesh.

ISAAA is “a not-for-profit international organization that shares the benefits of crop biotechnology to various stakeholders, particularly resource-poor farmers in developing countries, through knowledge sharing initiatives and the transfer and delivery of proprietary biotechnology applications.”

SEARCA is “a non-profit organization established by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) in 1966. As SEAMEO’s center of excellence in agriculture, SEARCA is mandated ‘to provide to the participating countries high quality graduate study in agriculture; promote, undertake, and coordinate research programs related to the needs and problems of the Southeast Asian region; and disseminate the findings of agricultural research and experimentation.’”

Lamenting the eggplant
In the welcome remarks, Dr. Gil Saguiguit, Jr., Director of SEARCA, commented that biotechnology is frequently bombarded by claims that it is detrimental to health. Such claims led to the Supreme Court decision to stop field tests on Bt eggplant in 2015.

In his message, Dr. Eufemio Rasco of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) said that though the Philippines was the first to develop Bt eggplant, Filipinos may never benefit from it. He compared the Philippine case to Bangladesh. “After seven years of field and greenhouse trials in various locations, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to approve the commercial planting of Bt brinjal.” Bt Brinjal was approved for release on October 30, 2013.

Rasco lamented, “The Bangladeshi people trusted their scientists, we did not (trust ours). Let us not allow temporary setbacks to dampen our commitment to help farmers and consumers.” He hoped that the concerns of farmers, and the issue of food security, would not be overlooked in the elections, or by the incoming government officials. The benefits of biotech will be enjoyed by generations to come, he prophesied.

The case of Bangladesh
Two Bangladeshi scientists spoke at the conference to share their experience with Bt Brinjal.

Dr. Gour Pada Das is the Country Coordinator of Feed the Future South Asia Eggplant Improvement Partnership in Bangladesh. Das shared an analysis of published reports about Bt Brinjal, in the hopes of determining how media perceived the new crop. He explained that the media was a powerful ally in promoting the acceptance of Bt Brinjal, and he shared their efforts in helping media practitioners understand the science.

Dr. ASM Mahbubur Rahman Khan is the Chief Scientific Officer and Head of the On-Farm Research Division at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI). He shared that two important stakeholders were satisfied with Bt Brinjal: farmers and housewives. Farmers were interested to grow the four varieties that were approved for release, and they were rewarded with lower production cost, higher yield, and higher gross margins. Housewives were happy to have healthy fruit.

Public fears
The open forum was moderated by Dr. Vivencio R. Mamaril, Program Director of Biotechnology Program Office at the Department of Agriculture. One question that arose was that of labeling. Detractors insist that biotech crops should be labeled as GMOs, and all products with ingredients that use biotech crops be appropriately labeled as well. But Das and Khan explained that Bangladeshi law makes no such requirement. Bt Brinjal, for example, is simply labeled “insect-free.”

Dr. Randy A. Hautea, Global Coordinator and Director of ISAAA’s Southeast Asia Center, explained that locally, biotech crops are sold in markets as simply “pesticide-free” or “insecticide-free.” He reasoned that labels should describe the product and its traits, providing information that matters to consumers. He further explained that almost all local tofu or “tokwa” is made from imported GM soybean. “What is the value of labeling it GM tokwa?”

Consequences of the Supreme Court ruling
Inevitably, Hautea was asked to comment on the Supreme Court ruling to stop field tests on Bt eggplant. He explained that ultimately, the case has not been decided, and that the court has entertained all motions for reconsideration.

As a representative from the DA, Mamaril quelled fears that other biotech crops would be affected by the Supreme Court ruling. He explained that previous approvals of other biotech crops were in no danger of being repealed, and farmers could continue planting them if they wished.

In closing, Hautea hoped the Philippines would learn from the experience of Bangladesh, identifying parallels in between the two countries’ developments in various fields of science and technology as well. He hoped that “we will share the same political will their government exhibited in the case of Bt Brinjal, so that we also put the weight of government behind a stronger push for science and technology in this country.”

With a new government in place, Filipino scientists can only hope for the best. — TJD, GMA News

–Written by Regina Laug-Rosero, GMA News Online.  See article link here.