Philippines is Still Asia’s Biotech Leader – USDA

The Philippines continued to be Asia’s leader in biotechnology as sustained developments in science and technology greatly contributed to the advancement of its farm sector, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said.

In the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report made by its Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in Manila, USDA cited the country’s lead in terms of plant and animal biotechnology.

The study recognized the Philippines as the first Asian country to allow the planting of a genetically engineered (GE) crop and move forward on a regulatory framework for GE animals.

However, the USDA expressed fear a change in GE plant regulations, as embodied in Department of Agriculture (DA) Administrative Order No. 8 (DA-AO 8) to the Joint Department Circular (JDC) in April 15, 2016, may further worsen the slow processing of biosafety applications.

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“There have been no major trade disruptions, but the delay in approvals has the potential to disrupt U.S trade. It likewise may gradually erode the country’s GE leadership status in the region,” the report said.

It was in 2003 when the Philippines introduced its first GE crop–Bt corn. Since then, GE corn area planted has reached over 5.9 million hectares. From April 2016 to March 2017, GE corn was planted on an estimated 655,000 hectares, relatively flat compared to the previous year’s level.

Through the years, the country has produced more Bt crops including the fruit and shoot borer-resistant eggplant (Bt eggplant) from the Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines at Los Banos (IPB-UPLB), the beta-carotene-enriched rice or Golden Rice (GR2E) from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the delayed ripening papaya with ring spot virus-resistance from IPB-UPLB, and the Bt cotton which is currently being promoted by the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Administration.

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While these developments are highly recognized worldwide, the USDA emphasized the need for the government to closely look at plant biotechnology marketing issues to keep the firm support of local farmers as well as consumers for GE products.

“Support for GE products remains strong among local corn farmers, hog and poultry raisers, feed millers, food processors, academe, and other end users. Although supportive, large domestic food and agribusiness companies that are already using GE products prefer to remain silent on the issue,” the USDA said.

“On the other hand, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including environmental groups, organic agriculture advocates, and other civil society groups represent vocal opposition to agricultural biotechnology. The overwhelming majority of Filipinos remain indifferent,” it added.

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In animal biotechnology, meanwhile, the USDA projected there would be no Philippine genome-edited animals (clones) introduced in the market within the next five years due to being stuck in the conventional techniques.

“The Philippines uses conventional techniques to improve livestock, including artificial insemination, embryo transfer, in-vitro embryo production, and ovum-pick,” the agency said.

“There is currently no legislation or regulations in place covering the development, use, import, or disposal of livestockclones, GE animals, or products derived from these animals or their offspring in the Philippines,” it added.

The USDA recommended that for the Philippines to start progress in animal biotechnology, the country must invest on a variety of studies and later on work on market acceptance to increase revenues.

Earlier this month, House deputy speaker Sharon Garin called on the government for the passage of House Bill 7926, or the Modern Biotechnology Act of 2018. The bill seeks the creation of a Biotechnology Authority of the Philippines (BioAP), which shall serve as the policy-making body on biotechnology in the country.


Written by Eireene Jairee Gomez in The Manila Times. See original article link here.