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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Biotech Crops Winning the GMO Debate with Continuing Expansion

Even as the debate over the safety of genetic modification rages on, farmers worldwide are voting with their pockets as they continue to plant more biotech crops. For 2017, global hectarage of biotech (bt) crops increased 4.7 million hectares over the previous year i.e. from 185.1 million hectares to 189.8 million hectares, an increase of three percent.

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PhilRice Kicks Off Golden Rice Consultation

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has began the public consultation on the proposal for the field trial application of genetically modified Golden Rice (GR2E) variety in the Philippines.

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Dr. Randy Hautea: Global advocate for farmers and biotechnology

Dr. Randy A. Hautea dedicated his career to improving the lives of smallholder farmers, especially in developing nations.

As a plant breeder and global coordinator of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA), he was committed to using biotechnology to breed crops that can help smallholder farmers succeed and ensuring that farmers have access to innovation.

“Biotechnology is one of the tools necessary in helping farmers grow more food on less land,” Dr. Hautea told a Nigerian newspaper last year. “However, the promises of biotech crops can only be unlocked if farmers are able to buy and plant these crops, following a scientific approach to regulatory reviews and approvals.”

Dr. Hautea died July 18 in the Philippines, where he resided with his wife, Desiree, who is also a plant scientist.

“I was privileged to have Randy as my student while he was earning his doctorate in plant breeding at Cornell University,” said Dr. Ronnie Coffman, director of International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IP-CALS). “He was a fine researcher, with a passion for plants and a passion for helping the farmers who grow them. His dedication to advancing agriculture will be acutely missed.”

Dr. Hautea received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. degrees in agronomy and plant breeding from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños, and was a visiting scientist in agronomy and plant genetics at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Hautea was internationally respected for his significant contributions to the understanding and improvement of crops, especially field legumes and fibers. His research focused on breeding crops that were tolerant to various stresses and adapted to intensive cropping systems, as well as improving seed quality.

In recognition of his research achievements, the National Academy of Science and Technology of the Philippines awarded Dr. Hautea its “Outstanding Young Scientist” prize in plant breeding in 1995.

Professionally, Dr. Hautea was director of the Institute of Plant Breeding at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños and team leader of the Philippines’ national commodity research and development teams for legumes, vegetables and root crops before assuming leadership of ISAAA’s South East Asia Center in 1998. He also was involved in assessing the international agricultural research centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Dr. Hautea went on to become global coordinator of ISAAA, a non-profit organization engaged in facilitating the assessment, acquisition, transfer and management of biotechnology applications for the benefit of developing countries. ISAAA operates principally in Southeast Asia and East Africa and is instrumental in tracking the cultivation of biotech crops throughout the world, annually releasing a report that documents the adoption of biotechnology by farmers across the globe, especially in developing nations.

“Randy was an inspiration to all of us who worked in crop biotechnology in developing countries,” said Dr. Tony Shelton, a Cornell entomologist who collaborated with Dr. Hautea on several scientific papers. “He and his wife Des were a dynamic force, showing us all what can be accomplished with dedication, hard work and knowledge.”

As a staunch advocate for biotechnology, Dr. Hautea served on the advisory board of the Cornell Alliance for Science, a global communications and training initiative that seeks to promote access to scientific innovation as a means of enhancing food security, improving environmental sustainability and raising the quality of life globally.

“Randy was deeply committed to our mission, which was reflected in his own life’s work,” said Dr. Sarah Evanega, director of the Alliance. “In honor of his memory, and his great contributions to crop biotechnology, we will name a Randy A. Hautea Global Leadership Fellow from the Philippines to attend our training course this fall.”

In addition to his wife, Dr. Hautea is survived by his daughter, Samantha, a communications specialist at Cornell University who is a member of the IP-CALS staff.

-Written by Joan Conrow in Cornell Alliance for Science.  See original article link here.

Socio-economic Aspect of GM Crops Highlighted in Symposium

Socio-economic Aspect of GM Crops Highlighted in Symposium

Science and economics merged during The Economics of Biotech Crops: A Symposium to Promote Economic and Financial Literacy held on July 17, 2018 at the SEARCA Umali Auditorium, Los Baños, Laguna.

The half-day event was a joint collaboration of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture through its Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) in partnership with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and the Philippine Economic Society (PES) toward the implementation of Republic Act No. 10922 (Economic and Financial Literacy Act of 2016) and in observance of Nutrition Month this July.

More than 60 participants composed of scientists and experts as well as representatives from the academe, national and international agencies/institutions, partners from the biotech and business sectors, and media practitioners were informed on topics centered on the socio-economic aspect of GM crops including the global status of biotech crops, IRRI’s research on biotec rice, the socio-economics of Bt Eggplant, and the social and economic impact of biofortificated through genetic modification.

Dr. Maja-Leah Ravago, PES President, underlined the significance of looking at the economic and financial prospects of biotech crops because ultimately, maximizing the profits of the farmers is most important. She also expressed PES’ support in ensuring that accurate information from the experts is communicated to the public. Meanwhile, Dr. Desiree Hautea, Project Leader of the Bt Eggplant Project, agreed and commented during the open forum that one of the things that will always make bottomline to anyone is economics. She added that this poses a challenge to the economics partners on how they can impact the communications discourse with science-based information.

Biotechnology: Probable Solution to Food Scarcity in the Future

According to the Commission on Population, the Philippines will be home to 107.19 million people by the end of 2018. With the increasing number of Filipinos every year, food shortage is likely to happen in the future. Issues such as climate change especially rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns also pose a major challenge for sustainable agriculture and food security.

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Special Screening of Documentary on GMOs Held for Legislators in the Philippines

Special Screening of Documentary on GMOs Held for Legislators in the Philippines

More than 60 people composed largely of legislators, legislative staff, and students “feasted on facts” as the film’s tagline puts it, during the special screening of the documentary, Food Evolution, held on May 23 at the Philippine House of Representatives. The film was shown as part of the Biotechnology Exhibit themed Bioteknolohiya: Pambansang Hamon, Pambansang Solusyon (Biotechnology: Our Nation’s Challenge, Our Nation’s Solution) organized by the Department of Agriculture’s Biotechnology Program Office from May 21-24, 2018.

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