Davao stakeholders updated on crop biotech and Philippine biosafety guidelines

Davao stakeholders updated on crop biotech and Philippine biosafety guidelines

Various key stakeholder groups: regulators, farmer leaders, students, scientists, academe, DA information officers, and members and officials of local government units of selected municipalities in Davao region in the Philippines learned about the science, food and environmental safety, and socioeconomic benefits of biotech crops, as well as the biosafetyregulatory guidelines in the country, during the Biotechnology 101 & Joint Department Circular (JDC) Public Briefing held on August 16, 2017 at The Pinnacle Hotel and Suites, Davao City.

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Challenges in commercializing biotech crops tackled in seminar

Challenges in commercializing biotech crops tackled in seminar

Socio-economic considerations, multiple agency review, labeling, and legal court challenges are the major obstacles in getting biotech crops to farmers, according to Senior Legal Consultant of the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) Atty. Gregory Jaffe, who presented in the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on July 24, 2017 in his talk titled “GM Crops to Farmers: Curves in the Roads.” An example cited was the court case filed against Bt eggplant in the Philippines which is more of a procedural issue than a technical one. According to Atty. Jaffe, the key is transparent and predictable biosafety regulatory procedures that anticipate and address the said issues before a product is approved for release.

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GM crops bounce back with gains in production areas

[MANILA] Global acceptance of genetically modified (GM) crops sprang back in 2016 after suffering a decline in 2015, according to estimates by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).

According to ISAAA’s Global Status of Commercialised Biotech/GM Crops: 2016, released in May, 185.10 million hectares of GM crops were planted in 2016, showing an increase from 179.70 million hectares in 2015. In 2014, the global area under GM crops was 181.50 million hectares.

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USDA urged to strengthen GMO regulations

Center for Food Safety says government should be better protecting farmers, the public and environment

Two federal agencies charged with oversight of genetically engineered crops and animals are being urged by environmental, food safety and other entities to substantially strengthen their proposed rules to protect farmers and the public.

The statement from the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth U.S. in Washington D.C. came on June 19 as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded public comment periods on proposed changes to oversight of GE crops and animals.

USDA is in the process of revising its three decade-old rules governing GE plants and other GE organisms. The two environmental entities contend that while USDA has more authority to strengthen oversight, its proposed new rules would weaken it.

USDA spokesman Rick Coker said the agency would carefully consider all comments received on the issue through June 19, along with those submitted at public meetings held in Davis, CA, Kansas City MO, and Riverdale, MD. As they decide how or whether to finalize the proposed revised regulations.

“We are in the early stages of analyzing those comments, including tallying the number of comments received,” Coker said. “Until we carefully evaluate the comments, it’s unclear when we will reach a decision on how or whether to finalize the proposed revisions.”

“The haphazard and negligent regulation of agricultural biotechnology has been nothing short of a disaster for the public and the environment,” said George Kimbrell, legal director at Center for Food Safety. “While USDA should be protecting farmers and the environment, it has instead turned a blind eye to the harms that GE crops cause. Unfortunately, the proposed rules would make things worse, not better, with less oversight, not more.”

The proposed USDA rules would continue to permit large increases in the use of harmful chemicals with new herbicide-resistant GE crops, and do nothing to stop the epidemic of resistant super weeds or crop-damaging herbicide drift that plagues farmers, according to Center for Food Safety. Transgenic contamination would continue unchecked, harming conventional and organic growers, and newer GE crops like grasses and trees would create even greater novel risks, the center said.

Kimbrell said he expected USDA to complete regulation changes by year’s end.

Such changes come under guidelines allotted to administrative federal agencies, to pass and executive their own laws, which are known as administrative laws.

Along with the USDA comment period, FDA had requested comments on how to regulation GE animals and GE plants developed with new genetic engineering techniques.  FDA has never issued rules for assessing genetically engineered animals. Instead, Center for Food Safety contends, GE animals are reviewed under entirely inappropriate regulations designed for new animal drugs.  Last year, for example, the DFA approved genetically engineered salmon using its outdated animal drug rules, an approval Center for Food Safety is currently challenging in court.

On the other side of the proposed changes in federal rules governing GE animals and drops is the Biotechnology innovation Organization, an umbrella group, in Washington D.C. , that identifies itself as the world’s largest trade association representing biotechnology firms, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organization in the United States and more than 30 other countries.

Members include Dow Pharmaceutical Sciences Inc., Dupont Corp., and Monsanto.

On June 5, BIO issued a news release citing a study from the British firm PG Economics, contending over the past 20 years biotech crops have increased agriculture’s environmental sustainability, while providing significant economic benefits. According to the PG Economics study the use of biotech/genetically modified seeds has allowed farmers to adopt more sustainable practices like reduced tillage, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report contends that without biotech crops, billions more kilograms of carbon dioxide would have been emitted in 2015 alone-the equivalent of adding 11.9 million cars to the road.  It also states that for farmers using GM seeds from 1996 to 2015, the net global farm income benefit due to GM seed was $167.7 billion.

-Written by Margaret Bauman in The Cordova Times.  See original article link here.

New biosafety guidelines introduced to stakeholders in Cebu, Philippines

New biosafety guidelines introduced to stakeholders in Cebu, Philippines

More than a hundred members of consumer groups, regulators, farmer leaders, faculty and students, information officers, and members and officials of local government units in Cebu province in the Philippines learned about the science, safety, and potential benefits of modern biotech, particularly biotech crops. The latest biosafety regulatory guideline in the country was also introduced during the Biotechnology 101 & Joint Department Circular (JDC) Public Briefing on April 4, 2017 at Big Hotel, Mandaue City, Cebu.

Julieta Fe Estacio, Head Secretariat of the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) – Biosafety Committee, and Ma. Lorelie Agbagala, Agricultural Center Chief II of the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Bureau of Plant Industry, explained the standards, procedures, and principles of the JDC and the major roles of the DOST and DA. Both emphasized the importance of regulation to ensure the safety of biotech products in research and in the market. Other topics presented were biotech research trends, biotech crops in the pipeline, and food and environmental safety issues.

Following the presentations was an open forum with representatives from the five concerned government Departments (DOST, DA, Department of Health, Department. of the Environment & Natural Resources, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government).

Ms. Alejandra Solijon, Chair of the Cebu Provincial Farmers Action Council, said in her message “We look forward to maximizing and optimizing farmer output through biotech. By merging research and technology with actual experiences in the field, we hope for a positive outcome for the Philippine agriculture.”

Mexico: Agricultural Biotechnology Annual

Negative public perceptions regarding biotechnology have influenced political will. The Mexican Supreme Court and the National Commission on Human Rights established that indigenous groups in the state of Yucatan where the release of transgenic crops into the environment is sought must be consulted prior to granting commercial permits. Although it goes against the Federal Biosafety law, in October 2016, Yucatan declared its state ¨Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) ¨ free zone, to include crops and all GE products. The states of Quintana Roo and Campeche have proposed to adopt a decree similar to that of Yucatan during the Conference of the Parties, COP8 in Cancun. Mexico City and the state of Tlaxcala have decreed their states ¨GMO¨ free zone, to include GE crops in 2009 and 2011, respectively.

Mexico: Agricultural Biotechnology Annual

Published by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service as its Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) Report.  View article link here.

DA sets up P150-M lab in Davao City

DAVAO CITY — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is setting up an agricultural laboratory worth P150 million next year in Manambulan, Tugbok District, this city.

The project called the Southern Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Laboratory (SoMInAL) aims to harmonize agricultural laboratories to help increase production and ensure quality and bio-safety of agricultural products through state of the art research and development facilities.

Of the P150 million, P100 million will be utilized for the building construction while P50 million is allocated for the laboratory paraphernalia.

Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Wednesday said the laboratory would directly address the needs for the provision of various diagnostic services, analyses and ensure product quality, consumer safety and environmental protection for both domestic and global markets.

“SoMInaL will serve the needs of our farmers, fisherfolks and livestock growers. It will also mark a radical development and at the same time strengthen the High Value Crops industry,” Piñol added.

He said the laboratory will handle plant disease, animal disease, water and soil analysis. “We are confronted with various diseases in plants like for example the Fusarium wilt and cocolisap. There is a need for research with such problems. This (lab) is the solution for our dream to address the problems confronting our farmers,” Piñol said.

He added, “I would like it to be completed in the next two years or even earlier.”

On the other hand, Piñol reiterated his thrust against corruption during his speech after the groundbreaking ceremony of the SoMInaL on Wednesday afternoon.

He challenged DA employees to give the projects needed by the farmers. “I hope we will be able to prove to the farmers that our government is not corrupt and I want all of you to make the same commitment,” he said.

Piñol also assured the farmers and stakeholders present during the groundbreaking ceremony that President Rodrigo Duterte supports the agriculture sector.

-Written by Philippine News Agency in Manila Bulletin.  See article link here.