Solon Bats for Modernization of Biotechnology in the Philippines

Deputy Speaker and AAMBIS-Owa partylist Rep. Sharon Garin on Thursday batted for the modernization of biotechnology in the country to combat poverty.

She made the call as the nation celebrates the National Week for Overcoming Extreme Poverty.

The House leader lamented that the House Bill 7926, Modern Biotechnology Act of 2018, which she principally authored has long been pending with the House Committee on Science and Technology.

The bill seeks to establish the Biotechnology Authority of the Philippines (BioAP) and eliminate the regulatory complications hampering the commercial release of biotechnology products.

“Opportunities to alleviate poverty are being wasted as we continue to delay the passage of this bill. The notion that modern biotechnology products produced commercially are potentially dangerous must be discarded once for all,” she said in a statement.

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.”

Citing recent statistics, it was shown that poverty incidence in the Philippines averages about 21.6 percent and is highest among farmers at 34.4 percent. Garin said biotechnology could increase yields and better products, leading to more income for farmers.

House Bill 7926 tasks the BioAP to serve as a policy-making body responsible for reviewing, improving, and implementing biosafety regulations for products of modern biotechnology. The BioAP, which shall be an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), shall ensure that the biosafety regulations are science-based and simplified with a product-based and not a process-based approach.

“A key feature of the bill is the proposed exemption for donor’s tax for any donation, contribution, bequest subsidy, or financial aid to BioAP or any Department, SUC, or research center in support of biotechnology,” Garin noted.

Under the bill, unauthorized destruction of biotech crops, and sale or distribution of fake Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seeds are penalized to promote the responsible use of biotechnology, she said.

Cong. Sharon S Garin (Imajge Credit: FACEBOOK/ MANILA BULLETIN)
Cong. Sharon S. Garin (Image Credit: FACEBOOK/ MANILA BULLETIN)

A fine of P500,000 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.

The Modern Biotechnology Act of 2018 is in line with the National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) recognition of agricultural biotechnology as a priority sector with a direct impact on AmBisyon 2040, Garin said.

“It is time that safe and responsible use of biotechnology is included in the Philippine toolkit to meet national development goals,” the deputy speaker said.


Written by Charissa Luci-Atienza in Manila Bulletin. See original article link here.