AFTER becoming corn-self-sufficient in 2012, the Philippines may soon become an exporter of corn.
This was emphasized by Gabriel O. Romero, Regulatory Affairs Lead of Monsanto Philippines Inc., during a forum organized by Monsanto Philippines and the Publishers Association of the Philippines Inc.
The Joint Media Forum, with the theme “Towards Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security”, aims to “enlighten” members of the media of the safety of genetically modified (GM), crops and its socioeconomic benefits.
Romero said the global adoption of GM crops is proof that farmers worldwide have benefited from improved crop varieties aided by gene-splicing technique. He said around 812,000 hectares of the estimated 1 million yellow-corn areas, or about 80 percent to 85 percent, are planted to GM corn.
“There is a rule that the corn farmers can only export if and the Philippines become 120-percent self-sufficient,” Romero said.
The spirit of the law prohibiting farmers from exporting corn is to ensure that the country will have sufficient buffer stock.
“Our level of sufficiency is playing from 96 percent to 100 percent,” Romero said. “We can export corn anytime, but there is a law that prohibits farmers.”
Romero added the erratic price of corn somehow prompted corn farmers to look at the possibility of exporting GM corn.
He cited China and Indonesia as potential markets for Filipino corn farmers.
IN the Philippines, the cultivation of GM corn, such as the insect-resistant Bt-corn and roundup-ready corn varieties, is preferred over hybrid or native varieties because of its benefits, according to Romero.
Romero said that, before, it was only India and the Philippines planting GM crops in Asia. “Australia has its GM cotton; India has GM eggplant or Bt eggplant. Now, Myanmar is planting GM cotton,” Rotmero said sans citing sources.
Romero added that China has been into GM cotton and GM papaya, while Pakistan is now also planting GM cotton.
“Not all of these are ‘legal planting’,” Romero said, adding that legal planting is only in the Philippines, Vietnam and Australia.
“In Bangladesh farmers found out that GM crops are good and decided to adopt [the cropping] even without the regulatory system in place,” he said.
THERE are only around 10 countries growing GM crops.
But, as far as user-countries are concerned, many all allow the importation of GM products or by-products like Japan, South Korea, Taipan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand.
“Right now, their production levels might be high enough so they are happy to import, and they don’t need to grow, but, sooner or later, they will grow GM crops,” Romero said.
He added that the next GM crops to see commercialization would include apples
Nina G. Gloriani, leader of a group advocating the commercialization of GM crops in the Philippines, said the country has the most stringent regulatory policy on GM crops. According to Gloriani, the Joint Memorandum Circular on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) even enforced a more stringent regulatory policy.
She debunked the claim of environmental groups and anti-GMO advocates that GM crops are unsafe and pose great health and environment risks.
“Regulation of GM foods are assessed according to national and international standards before they are allowed for importation and commercialization,” said Gloriani, president of the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines. “There are also food standards to protect consumer health and ensure fair food practices.”