ISAAA Philippines in 2017: Accomplishment Report

ISAAA Philippines in 2017: Accomplishment Report

This report summarizes the accomplishments of ISAAA SEAsiaCenter and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) in 2017 focused on bringing the benefits of biotechnology to help uplift the lives of the Filipinos.

PUBLISHED BY: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)

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2018_iecs_accomplishment_isaaa_searca2017: Year in Review

The Joint Department Circular (JDC) titled Rules and Regulations for the Research and Development, Handling and Use, Transboundary Movement, Release into the Environment, and Management of Genetically-Modified Plant and Plant Products Derived from the Use of Modern Biotechnology was approved and signed by the secretaries of the Philippine government’s Departments of Agriculture (DA), Science and Technology (DOST), Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Health (DOH), and Interior and Local Government (DILG) on March 7, 2016. The JDC was drafted in response to the nullification of the DA Administrative Order No. 8 by the Supreme Court last December 8, 2015.

It was the product of five multi-sectoral public consultations held by the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP).  After the release of the JDC, ISAAA, together with its partners initiated public briefings to different key provinces and cities in the Philippines. The objective of the briefing was to inform the farmers, traders, consumer groups, students, extension workers, and other stakeholders about the changes in the regulations.

The stakeholders who attended the JDC briefings expressed their appreciation of the activities which equipped them not just with knowledge about the regulations but also more appreciation of biotechnology. It is one of the most powerful strategies of ISAAA to continually engage the influential stakeholders and empower them to actively participate in the biotech dialogue.

ISAAA also continues to provide support to enable transfer of appropriate biotechnologies, particularly the fruit and shoot borer resistant eggplant known in the Philippines as Bt talong.


Communication Research

ISAAA and SEARCA BIC conducted a 17-year media study (2000-2016) to analyze the trends in Philippine print and online reporting on modern crop biotechnology. The study is part of the Know the Science project funded by the Philippine Department of Agriculture’s Biotechnology Program Office (BPO). The result of the study was published in the April 2017 issue of Philippine Journal of Crop Science and presented in the 24th Scientific Conference of the Federation of Crop Science Societies of the Philippines (FCSSP).

The study, which reviewed 2,219 articles from top Philippine newspapers (Manila Bulletin, Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Business Mirror), showed that over the past 17 years of reporting, the Philippine media exhibited a mature editorial stance on biotechnology, which happened gradually through the years. This is manifested by the decrease in the number of articles in negative tone; increase in the use of metaphors relating to potential/promise; decline in the use of biotech critics as sources of information; and increase in the number of articles framed towards social progress, highlighting the positive impact of crop biotechnology. For the past seven years (2010-2016), the top sources of information on biotechnology were Dr. Clive James (ISAAA Founder and Emeritus Chair) and ISAAA. It was recommended that media practitioners and scientists must continue to collaborate to sustain the public interest on the technology.

ISAAA also presented the study through different publications such as booklets, infographics, and blogs to highlight the findings.


Advancing biotech policy and regulations

Joint Department Circular on Biotechnology Regulation in the Philippines

With the new regulations implemented in the Philippines, regional public briefings were organized by ISAAA, SEARCA BIC, and the Philippine Department of Agriculture. Around 800 key stakeholders attended the four regional briefings held in Cebu City, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City and Pampanga. The participants, including members of the consumer groups, regulators, farmer-leaders, faculty and students, information officers, and staff and officials of the local government units, were given lectures on the different tools and applications of modern biotechnology, environmental and food safety issues, biotech crops commercially available in the country and elsewhere, and biotech crops being developed and in the pipeline. Representatives of the five government agencies (Agriculture, Science and Technology, Health, Environment and Natural Resources, and Interior and Local Government) involved in the development and implementation of the new regulatory system were also present during the briefings to address the concerns of the public.

Policy dialogues and related activities

ISAAA, in collaboration with the Philippine DA-Biotech Program Office (DA-BPO), provided travel support to DA staff attending high level policy symposium/dialogue organized by international organizations including the ASEAN Genetically Modified Food (GMF) Testing Network (Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar) and APEC HLPDAB Meeting and other APEC ministerial meetings in Can Thó, Vietnam.

Together with DA-BPO, ISAAA also conducted activities for the creation and promotion of a legislative agenda supporting agri-biotech development in the Philippines.  A series of focused group discussions and consultations with key stakeholders and members of the legislature were executed.

Study Visit to Biotech Crop Fields

Under a collaborative project with DA-BPO, ISAAA organized a study visit to the Philippines for Bangladesh biosafety regulators, as requested by the Department of Environment – Implementation of the National Biosafety Framework (INBF) Project of Bangladesh. Five Bangladesh regulators attended a regulations briefing at the DA headquarters, introduction to the Bt eggplant project at UPLB-IPB, discussions with the Golden Rice researchers at the International Rice Research Institute, field visits to commercial Bt corn fields and eggplant farms in Tarlac and Pangasinan.

Special seminar on Safety, Regulations, and Agricultural Modernization

A seminar was co-organized by ISAAA, SEARCA BIC, and Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) Philippines wherein PBS Senior Legal Consultant, Atty. Gregory Jaffe presented the major obstacles in getting biotech crops to farmers. The obstacles discussed were socio-economic considerations, multiple agency review, labeling, and legal court challenges. 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. The seminar was attended by students, researchers, and key scientists and experts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños scientific community.

JDC Roundtable Discussion with Department of Justice and DA Beat Reporters

ISAAA, SEARCA BIC, and the DA Biotech Program Office informed print, TV, and radio reporters covering court
cases in the Philippines about the background and details of the Joint Department Circular (JDC) through a roundtable discussion.

Topics presented were the history of the National Biosafety Framework, the overview of the Bt eggplant court case which led to the JDC, and the JDC and Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DABPI) processes for biosafety applications. Critical analysis and comparison of the DA Administrative Order (AO) No. 8 and the JDC were also discussed.


Capacity building

Agri-biotech Boot Camp

Twenty-nine (29) senior high school students and their science teachers from Isabela, Laguna, Iloilo, Cebu, Davao,
and Cagayan De Oro were enlightened on the issues and trends in agriculture and agri-biotech during the Agribiotech Boot Camp for Senior High School Students at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study
and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) Headquarters, Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines.

The activity was conducted to create awareness and build interest in agriculture and introduce traditional and modern biotech as a career among the students. The boot camp is a build-up activity for the 13th National Biotechnology Week celebrated on November 20-24, 2017 at Fisher Mall, Quezon City.

Aside from lectures, briefings and study visits to the biotech laboratories and facilities of the University of the
Philippines Los Baños – Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB IPB) and UPLB-National Institute of Molecular Biology
and Biotechnology (UPLB-BIOTECH), and the Rice World Museum of the International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI) were also conducted. Interactive games relatedto biotech were facilitated by student organizations
University of the Philippines League of Agricultural Biotechnology Students (UP LABS) and UP Genetic
Researchers and Agricultural Innovators Society (UP GRAINS).

AgStorytelling in Social Media

ISAAA social media managers shared some techniques on how to promote agricultural innovations such as
biotechnology to a wider reach through social media.  Information officers from the DA regional offices attended the workshops held in Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, and Pampanga and learned how to develop and execute a social media plan, create visually engaging and informative posts, and harness the power of storytelling in engaging the public.

Agri-biotech Capacity Building for ASFARNETPhilippines

Asian Farmers Regional Network (ASFARNET) Philippines, PhilRice, and DA-Biotech Program Office, in collaboration with ISAAA and SEARCA BIC, organized a trainers’ training-workshop on agri-biotechnology. The products, science, safety, and potential benefits of biotechnology as well as strategies and skills for biotech communication were presented to farmer-leaders and members of ASFARNET from all over the country.

Tackled in the training were the development of Golden Rice in the Philippines, science communication, local
government communication support strategies, and social media for biotech communication, among others.

The group also visited the Philippine Carabao Center and the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and
Aquatic Resources.


Public information and outreach

#KnowtheSciencePH Social Media Campaign

ISAAA and SEARCA BIC used the power of social media to educate the Filipinos about the science behind crop biotechnology through the #KnowTheScience campaign. It is part of the information, education, and communication (IEC) project with DA-Biotech Program.

The campaign aims to educate the Filipino public about biotech crops and the technology by understanding the science behind them through major social media networks namely: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram. The campaign uses scientific and evidence-based leverage of biotech crops through studies published on its safety, and actual and potential benefits.

It highlights the personal stories and experiences of people who adopt (farmers, consumers) or develop (scientists) biotech crops. Among the outputs of the campaign are infographics, biotech trivia, and biotech stories.

The number of social media users who liked Know The Science reached over 1,000 in December 2017. The pages
have been liked and followed by students, high school teachers, college instructors, researchers, scientists, bloggers, government organizations, and communication specialists.

National Biotechnology Week Exhibit

Over 700 gameboard kits of #BiotechisCool were distributed by ISAAA during the Philippine National Biotechnology Week. Copies of other ISAAA publications were also distributed to the attendees of the event.

Radyo Technolohiya

The biotech-on-air radio program Radyo Teknolohiya continues to reach the public through DZRB Radyo ng Bayan aired weekly in all provinces of the Philippines.

The program covered various issues on biotech including research updates, science communication, the new national regulations, animal biotech, and agricultural modernization.

Bt Eggplant Roundtable Discussion

As part of ISAAA and SEARCA BIC’s continuing effort to inform the public about biotech crops in the pipeline, a
roundtable discussion on Bt eggplant was held for the members of the to the Vegetable Industry Council of Southern Mindanao (VicsMin), a non-profit organization that advocates policies beneficial to the vegetable industry in the region and has 40 active member institutions and 20 individual farmers.

Bt eggplant study leader Dr. Lourdes Taylo discussed the science, safety, and the potential actual benefits of modern biotechnology, particularly Bt eggplant. The group expressed its full support for the commercial planting of Bt eggplant in the country by signing a one-page manifesto of support. VicsMin also expressed support for all the public advocacy efforts that will conducted for Bt eggplant. Other members also offered their land as possible sites of demonstration farms for Bt eggplant.

From Frankenfood to Light of Hope:17 Years of Agri-biotech Reporting in the Philippines (2000-2016)

From Frankenfood to Light of Hope:17 Years of Agri-biotech Reporting in the Philippines (2000-2016)

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.


Download PDF copy (1MB)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.

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Biotech Corn in the Philippines: A Country Profile

Biotech Corn in the Philippines:  A Country Profile

This monograph covers the extracted and modified section of ISAAA Brief 49: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2014 .  It features a comprehensive overview of the adoption, impact and future prospects of biotech crops in the Philippines.

PUBLISHED BY:  International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center.

CITATION:  Aldemita, Rhodora R., Villena, Maria Monina Cecilia A., and Clive James. 2015. Biotech Corn in the Philippines:  A Country Profile. Los Baños, Laguna: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture - Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC).



Download PDF copyBiotech corn adoption in the Philippines increased at an average of 5% annually since it was planted in 2003. The Philippine regulatory system established since 1992, revised and updated in 1999, 2002, and 2006 with various amendments and supporting memoranda set the adoption of biotech corn in the Philippines. Research institutions that were established to conduct research on biotechnology have been amply supported by government and international sources. Scientists and government continue to support biotech crop research in the Philippines with locally-developed biotech crops in the pipeline: beta carotene-enriched rice, insect resistant eggplant and cotton, and virus resistant papaya. Farmers and farmer leaders express support for biotech crops and share their stories on how they are benefiting from the technology.

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Science and Popular Media: How Cartoonists Visualize Crop Biotechnology

Science and Popular Media: How Cartoonists Visualize Crop Biotechnology

Cartoons and other popular art forms such as comic strips and animation can sometimes be more powerful than words in conveying messages. They go beyond just giving information. By reflecting on popular contemporary ideas, cartoons elicit emotions that encourage interest, inquiry, and empathy.
Readers are attracted to cartoons because of its subtle humor and ability to communicate several messages in a visual and simple way.

PUBLISHED BY:  International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotechnology Applications (ISAAA)

CITATION:  Navarro, Mariechel, Kristine Natividad, Sophia Mercado, and Jenny Panopio. 2012. Visual
Representation of Science: How Cartoonists Define Biotechnology. International Service for the
Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and SEAMEO Southeast Asian Regional Center for
Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA): Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines.


Download PDF copyA study conducted by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) aimed to determine how cartoonists in Philippine national newspapers “define” biotechnology. A sample of cartoons published during 2000-2009 were analyzed as to message, tone (negative, positive or neutral), and use of frame, visual metaphor, and symbols. Absence of concrete products and unfamiliarity with the topic in the initial years of media coverage resulted in cartoons that favored the use of the fear appeal.

In 2011, ISAAA and the SEAMEO Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) – Biotechnology Information Center organized BiotechToons, a contest for cartoonists on biotechnology in collaboration with the Philippine International Cartoons, Comics, and Animation (PICCA), Inc. When provided with science based resources in media and expert formats, cartoonists were able to provide a broader perspective or more substantive overview of the technology.

Aside from the Philippines, other countries within the ISAAA biotech information network such as China, Kenya, and India are using different cartoon formats to help popularize crop biotechnology concepts and issues.

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Adoption and Uptake Pathways of Biotechnology Crops: The Case of Biotech Corn Farmers in Selected Provinces of Luzon, Philippines

Adoption and Uptake Pathways of Biotechnology Crops: The Case of Biotech Corn Farmers in Selected Provinces of Luzon, Philippines


Biotechnology crops have been the center of public concern for a time. Critics have raised many issues against these crops which being devoid of scientific evidence have failed to gain ground. On the contrary, after more than 15 years of commercial use, biotech crops have demonstrated the immense benefits they can contribute in terms of economic productivity, environmental protection, and upliftment of the welfare of poor farmers in many parts of the world.

PUBLISHED BY:  College of Development Communication, UP Los Baños (CDC-UPLB) The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) SEAMEO Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA)

CITATION: Torres, Cleofe S., Edmund G. Centeno, Romel A. Daya, Ma. Teresita B. Osalia, and Juvy N. Gopela. 2012. Adoption and Update Pathways of Biotechnology Crops: The Case of Biotech Farmers in Selected Provinces of Luzon. College of Development Communication, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) SEAsiaCenter, and SEAMEO Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA): Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines.


But are the farmers adopting biotech crops aware of these benefits even before they start to plant these crops? With minimal or no knowledge at all on its purported benefits, how do they come to embrace such crops? Who influences them to try out the biotech crops and how is their adoption sustained? What are the dynamics of knowledge seeking and sharing among them? These are the key questions that this study probes into.

Complementing the statistics, the study also attempts to capture the process that the farmers go through as they acquire and eventually apply the knowledge and practices pertaining to cultivation of biotech corn. Beyond adoption, the study further elaborates on the dynamics of how farmers share their experience, good or bad, with other farmers in and outside their communities. There is indeed a variety of uptake pathways among farmer groups. It is noteworthy, that they do exhibit a certain pattern, and this is a growth point for new learning on the social processes that govern the farmers’ behavior towards biotech crops.

Download PDF copy from ISAAA website.


Brief 40: Communicating Crop Biotechnology: Stories from Stakeholders

Brief 40: Communicating Crop Biotechnology: Stories from Stakeholders

This book, published by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, features 49 collective stories from 14 countries, and was written by 19 authors from ISAAA’s Global Knowledge Center (KC) and the Biotechnology Information Centers (BICs). It highlights well-documented stories from different stakeholders on the benefits of crop biotechnology and the ways by which the ISAAA’s global knowledge sharing network responded to their need for accurate, and science-based information on crop biotechnology.

PUBLISHED BY:  The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

CITATION:  Navarro, Mariechel J. (Ed.) 2009. Communicating Crop Biotechnology: Stories from Stakeholders. ISAAA Brief No. 40. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.


Download PDF copy from ISAAA website.

Here are some of the collective stories from Filipino academics, scientists, religious personalities, farmers and technology adoptors, media practitioners, and NGOs whom the SEARCA BIC and ISAAA KC have greatly contributed to their awareness, understanding, and acceptance of the technology:


  • Rosalie Ellasus: Lady Corn Farmer Goes International
  • Edwin Paraluman: Walking Tall in Biotech Debate


  • Melody Aguiba: Multi-Awarded Science Writer
  • Edita Burgos: Revolutionizing Media’s Role in Biotech Advocacy

Academics and Scientists:

  • Dr. Emil Javier: Tral Blazing Biotech in the Philippines
  • Cynthia Hedreyda: Molding Students into Future Scientists

Religious Sector:

  • Fr. Emmanuel Alparce: The Morality of Genetic Engineering

Other Partners:

  • The UPLB Genetics and Cell Biological Societies: Sharing Biotech Information to Students
  • Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines: Advancing Biotechnology through Partnerships

To read these articles, click on the listing below:

To obtain a copy of and to learn more about this publication, please contact:
ISAAA Global Knowledge Center
c/o IRRI DAPO Box 7777
Metro Manila, Republic of the Philippines
Telefax: +63 49 536-7216 / +63 2 845-0606