More than 200 stakeholders from four provinces in the CARAGA Region along with representatives from the academe, media, and other attached agencies learned about biotechnology, safety of genetically modified (GM) crops, different biotech products in the pipeline, and the country’s biosafety regulations during the Biotechnology 101 and Joint Department Circular (JDC) Public Briefing held on October 1, 2019 in Butuan City, Philippines. A training on Storytelling Agri-Innovations thru Social Media was held on October 2, 2019, attended by around 20 information officers from the province.
Local officials were in full support of the forum, which served as a venue for stakeholders to get the right information as well as clarify their misconceptions about biotechnology. Provincial Board Member (BM) Virgilio Radaza Escasiñas, Jr., who represented Agusan del Norte Governor Dale B. Corvera, stated that biotech crops are safe and that the province will benefit from the technology, especially since it is in line with their current programs and advocacies.
Scientists and experts from ISAAA, Institute of Plant Breeding at UP Los Baños, and Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines enlightened the participants on how the world’s growing population will benefit from biotechnology and its products. Issues on food and environmental safety of biotech crops were likewise tackled.
Representatives from the five departments (Agriculture, Health, Science and Technology, Interior and Local Government, Environment and Natural Resources) also discussed the Philippine regulatory system for GM crops and their respective guidelines in implementing the JDC.
Among the concerns raised by the participants include safety of biotech food products, health risks of these crops, possible posting of information on field trials in the tri-media, government assistance for farmers, regulation of sigue-sigue (counterfeit) seeds, effects of Bt in the soil and microorganisms, companies and organizations that are licensed to sell GM seeds, and the availability of Bt eggplant seeds.
Meanwhile, the social media training intends to equip stakeholders with the skills as well as share tips on how to promote biotech in social media. With guidance from ISAAA’s social media experts, the group learned how to create a social media plan, craft exciting posts, and maximize engagement with their audience through Facebook and Twitter.
The activity was organized by the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Biotechnology Information Office, ISAAA, and DA Regional Field Office 13.
(Written by Danellie Joy O. Medina, SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center)