House Panel Sends Biotech Bill to Plenary for Approval

THE House Committee on Science and Technology has endorsed for plenary approval House Bill 3372, or the Modern Biotechnology Act.

The House Committee on Science and Technology said on Tuesday the committee report of the bill is now being readied for another round of deliberations at the plenary.

AAMBIS-OWA Party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, principal author of the bill, said the proposal seeks to combat poverty through the modernization of biotechnology in the Philippines.

The bill seeks to expedite the regulatory decision-making process in biotechnology to help ensure the health and well-being of Filipinos, promote competitiveness, reduce hunger and poverty, and mitigate the effects of climate change.

“It is time that safe and responsible use of biotechnology is included in the Philippine tool kit to meet national development goals,” Garin asserted. According to Garin, the current regulatory regime, which is based on outdated knowledge and assumptions, must be revised to enable the Philippines to benefit from products of modern biotechnology without delay. “Support is also needed to accelerate research and development to further ensure the utility and safety of products of modern biotechnology,” she added.

Right now, Garin said it takes 65 months or more to complete all requirements for the commercial release of modern biotechnology products.

“The cumbersome regulations can no longer be justified for they effectively discriminate against local public biotech research institutions which have limited resources to comply with the existing regulations. This proposed bill will address this concern,” said the lawmaker.

Biotechnology is also seen to increase yields and better products, leading to more income for farmers.

Deputy House Speaker Sharon Garin (Image Credit: AAMBIS-Owa Party-list Facebook page)
Deputy House Speaker Sharon Garin (Image Credit: AAMBIS-Owa Party-list Facebook page)

Moreover, Garin noted the significant contribution of biotechnology to agricultural development to make bioengineered products more accessible to all Filipinos.

“We are trying to dispel the notion that commercially produced bio-fortified goods are potentially dangerous. This is a victory for science, agriculture, and all Filipinos.

Moreover, she said the National Economic and Development Authority’s (Neda) recognizes agricultural biotechnology as a priority sector with a direct impact on AmBisyon Natin 2040.

The 2015 statistics show the average poverty incidence in the Philippines is about 21.6 percent and is highest among farmers at 34.4 percent, she noted.

Under the bill, the Biotechnology Authority of the Philippines shall be established as a policy-making body and an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) responsible for reviewing, improving, and implementing biosafety regulations for products of modern biotechnology. Further, BioAP shall ensure that the biosafety regulations are science-based, and simplified with a product based and not a process-based approach.

Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) defines biotechnology as the use of biotechnological processes “to harness cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products that help improve our lives and the health of our planet.”

To promote the responsible use of biotechnology, the bill also proposes the penalization of unauthorized destruction of biotech crops, sale or distribution of fake Genetically Modified Organism seeds.

A fine of 500,000 and/or imprisonment for two years shall be imposed on individual violators. If the violation is made by an organization or an institution, a fine of P10 million and/or suspension of the privilege to operate within the Philippines shall be imposed.


Written by Jovie Marie de la Cruz in BusinessMirror. Read original article here.