‘Indeed, we are now entering the age of a new agricultural revolution,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in his speech at the “Symposium on Risk Assessment and Regulation of Genome Edited Plants” on October 8 and 9 at a hotel in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
“The discovery of a powerful new gene editing technology, known as CRISPR-CAS, allows us access to technologies which can be used to precisely design the crops we grow to improve quality, disease resistance and climate resilience,” Dar said in his speech read by Dr. Dionisio G. Alvindia, Scientist III at the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization.
CRISPR-CAS9, or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9, is a genome editing tool that is creating excitement in the science world these days because it is faster, cheaper, more accurate, and more efficient than other genome editing methods.
Genome, or gene editing, is among the technologies that allows scientists to change an organism’s DNA. It allows genetic material to be added, removed or altered at particular locations in the genome.
Dar said this development “makes us particularly excited about the future of biotechnology in the Philippines and its enormous benefits to producers in terms of improved productivity and higher incomes, and consumers in terms of quality and affordable food.”
He said in the last few months, the academe, industry, scientific advisory bodies and regulatory agencies were proactively engaged to new breeding techniques, including the CRISPR-CAS.
“Our scientists are eager to learn about the intricacies of these new breeding techniques and unleash their full potential to feed the world,” he added.
Because science-based solutions are the way of the future, he said the Department of Agriculture is vigorously pursuing inclusive, science-based and market-oriented development strategy, as part of our “New Thinking for Agriculture” framework.
“A modernized, inclusive agriculture sector can successfully thrive with sufficient public and private-sector support for technology, innovation and enterprise development,” Dar explained. “Our aim is clear: Attain inclusive growth and development through bountiful harvest [ani] and higher income [kita].”
Dr. Saturnina Halos, president of Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP), said the speech of Dar was “very encouraging.”
“He was the first [agriculture] secretary who was gung ho on biotech. He is convinced that biotech will help our farmers,” Halos, an agriculture genetics expert and one of the pillars of biotechnology in the Philippines, told the BusinessMirror at the sidelines of the symposium.
She said Dar was among those who placed biotech as tool of agriculture modernization in the country’s Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997.
An agriculturist, Dar was the agriculture secretary in 1998 and 1999, under then-President Joseph Estrada.
He was a longtime director general of the global India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, which he successfully led from 2000 to 2014.
“He is as forward thinking as early as 1997,” Halos said. “It is very encouraging. We hope we have more scientists in the government and in the private sector.”
The symposium was hosted by the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry, the Washington-based International Life Sciences Institute and the BCP.
It gathered scientists, risk assessors, regulators and other specialists on plant breeding and genetics from the Philippines and other parts of the world, including the US, Europe, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
The objective of the event was for the scientists, risk assessors and regulators to learn about how risk assessment and regulation of gene edited plants, as well as how the products of other new plant breeding techniques, are being considered or evaluated in other countries.
Dar said the holding of the conference is an impetus for the Philippines to vigorously pursue its biotechnology program, “which we expect would contribute to attaining our goals of food security and sufficiency, and creating more livelihood and employment opportunities in the countryside.”
-Written By Lyn Resurreccion in BusinessMirror. This article is originally posted here: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2019/10/13/dar-phl-entering-age-of-new-agri-revolution/ .