The Philippine Association of Nutrition (PAN) is an inter-professional group of advocates who enlist all to support finding solutions to problems in nutrition. The highest goal of PAN is to attain proper nutrition for every Filipino through all available means.
One out of every five Filipino children is stunted and the Global Food Security Index of the Philippines is at near critical levels at 48.1-87.2 or a 10-point difference from ideal. Faced with this challenge, we at PAN are proactive in exploring all possible interventions and innovation on the development of crops that will ensure food and nutrition security. Cognizant of the progress in food production to address the problem of food availability for the marginalized sectors of society, PAN supports the responsible use of biotechnology as a means to achieve this end.
An example of this is the development of genetically modified organisms (GMO) to enhance food production and contribute to better nutrition. GM crops have been assessed and approved by the Department of Agriculture and allied agencies for cultivation and/or direct use as food, feed and for processing. For over 12 years planting GM crops in the Philippines such as biotech corn has increased productivity and delivered an economic gain of about PhP 30B (US$ 642M) at the farm level. This gain is especially felt by more than 400 thousand, small-hold, resource-poor farmers.
World health authorities, scientific experts, and government regulatory bodies overwhelmingly endorse the safety of GM crops. To date, GMOs have been used for over 20 years and have been considered safe. The International Council for Science (ICS), composed of at least 281 national scientific institutions, lends credence to the safety of GMOs. ICS has determined that GM crops would not carry a higher risk than their conventional counterparts. The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences, among many others, also uphold GM food safety. As of 2016, 28 countries are growing GM crops and 40 countries are using them for food, feed and for processing, attesting to the breadth of global GM acceptance anchored on science-based safety assessment.
In 2010, the European Commission published its report on GMO research and highlighted the fact that biotechnology in crop production has been there for over 2 decades, signifying a long history of safe use or application. Until now, the use of GM food is still being monitored and noted to be safe in terms of allergenicity, risk of horizontal gene transfer and safety in the food production chain.
The nutrient profile of food is a major concern of PAN, and it is noteworthy that evidence shows the comparable nutrient bioavailability in GM crops as with their conventional counterparts for corn, rice, and soya. Certain GM crops do have a superior nutrient profile to provide a healthier diet. Equally important are the anti-nutrients in GM crops, which are not higher but remain comparable with non-GM crops.
Finally, PAN supports the maximization of biotechnology for the 21st century, such as the new gene editing tools, which will make the modification of crops faster and more precise. Such tools would enable the rapid development of more nutritious food on the table that our growing population needs.