SEARCA BIC Holds Region-Wide Public Briefing On Philippine Biosafety Regulations

SEARCA BIC Holds Region-Wide Public Briefing On Philippine Biosafety Regulations

More than a hundred participants composed of farmers, local government officials and representives from the private sector and academe from the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, and La Union attended the Biotechnology 101 and Joint Department Circular (JDC) No. 1, Series of 2016 Public Briefing held at Plaza del Norte, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte on March 28, 2019.

Scientists and experts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines gave presentations on biotechnology, food and environmental safety of genetically modified (GM) crops, different biotech products in the pipeline, and new breeding innovations. Representatives from the Departments of Health, Agriculture, Science and Technology, and Interior and Local Government were also present to discuss the guidelines of their respective agencies in the implementation of the JDC as well as address questions from the audience.

 Representatives from the province of Ilocos Norte with the experts and resource persons during the event. (Image Credit: SEARCA BIC)
Representatives from the province of Ilocos Norte with the experts and resource persons during the event. (Image Credit: SEARCA BIC)

The participants expressed their anticipation on approval of new GM crops in the country (i.e., Bt eggplant and Golden Rice) and inquired if the approval process can be expedited. The experts explained that the rigid regulatory system is important to guarantee the safety of GM crops in the market. They also affirmed the validity of the biosafety regulations as the Philippines has one of the most stringent regulatory guidelines worldwide. Another concern raised was the price of Bt eggplant seeds. Ms. Anna Pauleen Masanga from the UPLB-Institute of Plant Breeding and a member of the Bt eggplant project team assured the group that the seeds will be made available to farmers at a reasonable price once it is commercialized.

The activity was organized by the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Biotechnology Information Office, ISAAA, DA Regional Office I, and Ilocos Norte Provincial Agricultural Office.

 

Written by Danellie Joy O. Medina, SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center

Legislators Apprised on PHL Biosafety Regulations

More than 100 Legislative officials from the House of Representatives and selected members of the Philippine Judicial Academy (Philja) were apprised on the Philippine regulatory system for genetically modified crops in a briefing held at the House of Representatives on February 27.

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Isabela Governor Lauds Golden Rice Project

Incumbent Isabela Governor Faustino “Bodjie” Dy III commended the Golden Rice project for securing all the necessary requirements first before conducting field-testing, and for initiating dialogues among researchers, policymakers, and the public.

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Lawyers favor agri-biotech in food and medicines

Filipino lawyers favor the application of agri-biotech in food and medicines, a study conducted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Development Communication (UPLB-CDC) found. Read more

GMO Corn is Transforming Farmers’ Lives in the Philippines 

“Before now, I didn’t sleep well when I planted corn in my field,” recalled Edwin Paraluman, a farmer from the Philippines. “I was always afraid that I would wake up one day to find my corn field destroyed by the corn borer. This is because the corn borer in the Philippines does not respect any season, it is always there in the corn field.”

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Study Reveals Philippine Lawyers’ Perception and Attitude Towards Agri-biotech

Dr. Cleofe S. Torres, Professor at the College of Development Communication, UPLB presents the results of the study
Dr. Cleofe S. Torres, Professor from the College of Development Communication at UPLB presents the results of the study on lawyers’ perception towards agri-biotech

Results of the study, “Legal Discourse on Agri-Biotechnology: Implications to Lawyers’ Engagement in Biotechnology in the Philippines” were presented to scientists and experts as well as representatives from the academe, national and international agencies/institutions, and partners from the biotech community during the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on January 29, 2018.

The study was a joint collaboration of SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) and the College of Development Communication at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. It focused on analyzing the Philippine lawyers’ understanding and attitude towards agri-biotechnology and how these may serve as basis for defining their engagement in agri-biotech development.

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Atty. Damcelle T. Cortes, Asst. Professor from the College of Public Affairs and Development at UPLB discusses the analysis of the legal documents related to the Bt Eggplant case (Image Credit: SEARCA)

Results reveal that despite having a low level of familiarity with key terms (i.e., genes, viruses, Golden Rice, GMO contamination, etc.), processes, and the existence of agri-biotech regulations in the country, lawyers still favor the application of agri-biotech in food and medicines provided that proper precautions are taken such as educating the public on its pros and cons, addressing risks of the technology, and having a structured regulatory process, among others. While lawyers perceive agri-biotech as an interesting topic, they do not find it as a lucrative area of legal practice as yet. Nevertheless, they are open to expand their knowledge on the subject, collaborate with scientists, and actively participate in regulating agri-biotech products in the country.

The researchers also analyzed the content of legal documents related to the Bt eggplant case and found that there is a need to improve the level of science literacy among the judiciary based on the legal arguments raised during the trial. Consequently, this lack of understanding on the nature of GM crops had implications on their decision to stop the Bt eggplant field testing in the Philippines in 2015, but was overturned in 2016.

(Danellie Joy O. Medina, SEARCA-BIC)

Re-engineering Food

Supermarket shelves in the United States would soon be featuring the next generation of biotech food. An Associated Press report, for example, revealed the advent of granola bars made with genetically tweaked soybean oil that is heart-healthy. Foods from plants or animals that had their DNA “edited” are expected to begin selling by early next year. “Gene editing” is a different technology than the so-called genetically modified foods. It is “more like faster breeding that promises to boost nutrition, spur crop growth and make farm animals hardier, and fruits and vegetables last longer.”

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Leyte Farmers, Local Officials Briefed on Philippine Biosafety Regulations

“The greatest resource of a nation is its people. We consider our farmers as our jewels in Leyte.”

Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla welcomes speakers and participants to the Biotech 101 and Joint Department Circular (JDC) Public Briefing held at the Oriental Hotel in Tacloban City on October 26, 2018. (Image Credit: SEARCA BIC)
Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla welcomes speakers and participants to the Biotech 101 and Joint Department Circular (JDC) Public Briefing held at the Oriental Hotel in Tacloban City on October 26, 2018. (Image Credit: SEARCA BIC)

With this, Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla of Leyte welcomed more than 150 farmers and officials of selected municipalities in Leyte to the Biotech 101 and Joint Department Circular (JDC) Public Briefing held at the Oriental Hotel in Tacloban City on October 26, 2018. Governor Petilla said that the objectives of the activity were aligned with the local government’s thrust of improving the province’s economy through agriculture. “Science is good if we use it wisely for the benefit of the people,” he added.

Dr. Edgardo Tulin, President of Visayas State University discusses the food and environmental safety issues of biotech crops. (Image Credit: SEARCA BIC)
Dr. Edgardo Tulin, President of Visayas State University discusses the food and environmental safety issues of biotech crops. (Image Credit: SEARCA BIC)

Experts from the Institute of Plant Breeding – University of the Philippines Los Baños (IPB-UPB), Philippine Genome Center (PGC), and Visayas State University (VSU) oriented the participants on the science of biotechnology, food and environmental safety of genetically modified (GM) crops, and biotech products in the pipeline. Representatives from the Departments of Health, Agriculture, Science and Technology, and Interior and Local Government were also on hand to discuss the JDC guidelines and address questions from the audience.

 

Mr. Charles Anthony Vega, Local Government Operations Officer III from DILG explains the significance of public participation in the approval process of biotech crops. (Image Credit: SEARCA BIC)
Mr. Charles Anthony Vega, Local Government Operations Officer III from DILG explains the significance of public participation in the approval process of biotech crops. (Image Credit: SEARCA BIC)

Among the concerns raised during the open forum was the rigid biotech regulatory process in the country, which the experts explained was crucial in ensuring the safety of GM crops released in the market. The participants were also eager to promote the adaption GM crops in their province through a signature campaign and are now discussing the matter with the Department of Agriculture (DA) officials in the region.

The activity was organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), DA-Biotechnology Program Office, and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture – Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) in coordination with DA Regional Field Office 8.

– Danellie Joy O. Medina, SEARCA-BIC

The panel addresses queries from the audience. From left: Ms. Zyrine Lorizo (DA-BPI), Mr. Charles Anthony Vega (DILG), Ms. Julieta Fe L. Estacio, Head Secretariat of the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines, and Engr. Rolando Santiago, Supervising Health Program Officer from DOH. (Image Credit: SEARCA BIC)
The panel addresses queries from the audience. From left: Ms. Zyrine Lorizo (DA-BPI), Mr. Charles Anthony Vega (DILG), Ms. Julieta Fe L. Estacio, Head Secretariat of the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines, and Engr. Rolando Santiago, Supervising Health Program Officer from DOH. (Image Credit: SEARCA BIC)

 

Drought Tolerant Lines Improved Through Mutation

Good harvest under drought condition is now possible with the development of five breeding lines that can thrive well even with less water in rainfed areas.

Bred by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the drought-screened (DrS) lines include DrS 1062, DrS 1085, DrS 1061, DrS 1042, and DrS 1057. The lines, which are identified under moderate to severe drought conditions, were developed from NSIC Rc 9 (Apo).

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SEARCA BIC, US Embassy Manila, PHILJA, and PALS Hold Forum on Global State of Biotechnology

SEARCA BIC, US Embassy Manila, PHILJA, and PALS Hold Forum on Global State of Biotechnology

More than 150 executive and legislative officials from the Philippine House of Representatives, as well as selected members of the judiciary attended the Forum on the Global State of Biotechnology, a biotech outreach program conducted by the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center in collaboration with the United States Embassy Manila, the House of Representatives, Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA), and the Philippine Association of Law schools (PALS). The Forum was held on two separate events held on September 6 and 7, 2018 as part of an outreach grant from the U.S. Department of State.

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Experts and scientists enlightened the participants of the two events on different biotechnology issues. Dr. Lourdes D. Taylo, Study Leader of the Bt Eggplant Project of the University of the Philippines Los Baños-Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB); Dr. Donald MacKenzie, Executive Director for International Crop Improvement of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Missouri, USA; and Dr. Evelyn Mae Mendoza, academician of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) spoke about biotechnology trends in developing countries, the judicial and legislative process involved in crafting biotechnology regulations, and the science and strategic importance of biotechnology particularly on the country’s agricultural economy and food security.

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Meanwhile, distinguished members of Congress, namely, House Deputy Speaker Cong. Sharon Garin; Cong. John Marvin Nieto, member of the House Committee on Science and Technology; and AGRI Party List representative, Cong. Orestes Salon encouraged the biotech community to continue pushing for the development of agricultural biotechnology in the country and assured the government’s support behind this advocacy. Cong. Salon stated that he is keen to work with institutions in coming up with a more comprehensive legislative agenda. “This is the future, together with organic farming. We need to move fast to create a policy environment conducive to the growth of the [agri-biotech] industry,” he added.

House Deputy Speaker Garin expressed her belief that biotechnology is a key to a hunger-free Philippines. Cong. Garin said, “As long as we make necessary precautions, we can really make a difference. Not just for the state of agriculture, but also for food security. Agriculture and technology can go hand in hand in making that no Filipino is hungry.” – Danellie Joy Medina

Farmers Sign Support for Biotechnology

Farmer-leaders from Mindanao have signified their support for the application of modern biotechnology tools in agriculture, even as they keenly await the commercial release of “Pinoy biotech crops.”

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How a Banana Tissue Culture is Now Helping the Industry

Dr. Remedios Flamiano’s now multi-million banana tissue culture business, an application of plant biotechnology, was initially a failure, out of her frustration from being a low-paid instructor at a state university.

With no money on hand, and only the support of her husband, who agreed to turn their bedroom in General Santos City into a laboratory for her banana tissue culture, the award-winning scientist-turned-entrepreneur can now grow and culture her banana tissues in her P5-million laboratory after she received support from the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Small Enterprises Technology Upgrading Program (Setup) in 2014.

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