In 2016, the global area of biotech crops reached 185.1 million hectares, according to a research paper authored by Drs. Rhodora Aldemita and Randy Hautea of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). The results of their study are published on February 2, 2018 in GM Crops and Food. Read more
THROUGH a Joint Department Circular (JDC) empowering development of biotech crops in the country, biotech rice, papaya, cotton, and eggplant are expected to be fully implemented in local farms after most of the crops were already through with the field trial stages.
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.
SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. reiterated the increasing importance of safe, and evidence- and science-based agricultural technologies in promoting agricultural productivity and food and nutrition security amidst challenges like climate change, dwindling production resources, rapid population increase, and extreme poverty.
Among these technologies is biotechnology, including both traditional (e.g., selective breeding, fermentation techniques) and modern (i.e., genetic engineering) techniques, which the Center looks at as an important tool in addressing the abovementioned challenges. SEARCA particularly pushes for “coexistence,” which, according to a report of the US Department of Agriculture Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, “is the concurrent cultivation of conventional, organic, identity preserved (IP) and genetically engineered crops consistent with underlying consumer preferences and farmer choices.”
Dr. Saguiguit made this statement following the Philippine launch of the annual report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) on the global status of commercialized biotech crops. According to the ISAAA report, global planting of biotech crops reached 185.1 million hectares in 2016, which increased from 179.7 million hectares in 2015. A total of 26 countries grew biotech crops, including the Philippines, which planted around 812,000 hectares of biotech yellow corn last year. Biotech corn varieties, which are grown in the country since 2003, are pest resistant and herbicide tolerant, thus providing various documented benefits to Filipino farmers including significant increase in yield and reduction in production costs.
Dr. Saguiguit said that through SEARCA’s Tenth Five-Year Plan focused on Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (ISARD), the Center believes that due attention must be given to resource poor farmers by providing them access to information, best practices, and new technologies that will increase their farm productivity.
“Our goal is to give our farmers a fighting chance to cope with the many challenges and obstacles they face in farming. Through biotechnology and many other innovations, we hope to offer them better opportunities so that they can provide not only for their families but also contribute to the nation’s food security and overall development. Along these lines, SEARCA qualifies that it only promotes agricultural technologies and practices that are known to be safe and do not compromise human and environmental health,” said Dr. Saguiguit.
With the continuing opposition to biotechnology, Dr. Saguiguit said that it is all the more important for the public, particularly decision and policymakers, to understand the said technology in the context of scientific and empirical evidence.
ARE biotech crops, which are spliced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), safe to eat?
Opponents, mostly composed of private individuals, non-governmental organizations and international activists, say they are not. Proponents—who are mostly scientists (including Nobel Prize winners), health officials and United Nations agencies—claim they are!
Now, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (Isaaa) just released its newest report, “Global Status of Commercialized/Biotech GM Crops: 2016”. The Isaaa brief is considered one of the most-cited references in the field of modern agri-biotechnology due to its credibility and accuracy.
“Biotech crops have now had an unblemished record of safe use and consumption for over 20 years,” the report pointed out. “Future generations can benefit more from wide choices of biotech crops with improved traits for high yield and nutrition, as well as safe for food use and environment.”
Biotech crops are products of biotechnology, defined as “any technique that uses living organisms to make or modify a product, to improve plants or animals or to develop microorganisms for specific uses”.
The methodology seems like a work of fiction. Listen to the words of Dr. Frank A. Shotkoski, an adjunct professor at the Cornell University in the College of Life Science Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics: “Traditional methods of crop improvement require the mixing of genes by making specific crosses, observing and selecting for specific phenotypes [traits] in the offspring. This has been a very effective tool for crop improvement, and our ancestors have been quite successful in using these techniques to develop the productive, tasty and nutritious crops that we have today.”
But modern biotechnology completely changes that. “Biotechnology allows us to introduce genes into crops that could never be achieved using traditional/conventional methods, because the gene tied to a specific trait (i.e., insect resistance, disease resistance, herbicide tolerance, etc.) doesn’t exist in species,” Shotkoski explained. “Often, traits of interest can be introgressed into a crop much faster using biotechnology tools, such as marker-assisted breeding, gene transformation and/or gene editing.”
In recent years, modern biotechnology—through genetic engineering—has been used to increase plant and animal food production, to diagnose disease, improve medical treatment, produce vaccines and other useful drugs and to help dispose of industrial wastes.
“There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control,” American Congressman Jan Schakowsky once said. “We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help.”
Hunger is the physical sensation of desiring food. When politicians, relief workers and social scientists talk about people suffering from hunger, they usually refer to those who are unable to eat sufficient food to meet their basic nutritional needs for sustained periods of time.
But with the continuous number of people added annually to the current population, it is more likely that hunger will be a rule rather an exception. “Population growth is going crazy,” Shotkoski pointed out. “From 2 billion in 1935, it doubled to 4 billion in 1975. By 2000 the world was home to 6 billion. In 2030 there will be about 8 billion people inhabiting this planet.”
In addition, there are the issues of climate change: rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns. “Climate change is a major challenge for agriculture and food security,” said Dr. Randy Hautea, Isaaa global coordinator.
Biotechnology is seen as a probable solution. “I see biotechnology as an important component of the many technologies and choices that we have available to provide food security, human nutrition and health for an ever-expanding population,” Shotkoski said. “This is especially important for agriculture, where farmers are faced with many biotic and abiotic constraints, most of which can’t be dealt with using conventional technologies.”
In 1994 Calgene’s delayed-ripening tomato became the first GM food crop to be produced and consumed in an industrialized country. In 1995 GM cotton and GM corn were subsequently commercialized. Soon to be introduced in the country are the following: the GM eggplant and the vitamin A-rich golden rice.
A consumer advocacy group in UK reported that GM soya can be found in bread, biscuits, baby milk, baby foods, breakfast cereals, margarine, soups, pasta, pizza instant meals, meat products, flours, sweets, ice creams, crisps, chocolate, soy sauce, veggie-burgers, tofu, soya milk and pet foods.
In the Philippines, Filipinos may be eating GM foods, such as potato chips, corn cereals, or soya milk. Love it or loathe it, transgenic food is set to become a bigger part of what people eat.
But Greenpeace, an anti-biotech organization, continues to take a preventive stance. It cautioned that consumers can never be absolutely sure of the safety of biotech crops since this is only determined by decades of data and study.
Here are some concerns of those who opposed GM crops:
Allergies: Dr. Romeo Quijano, of the Department of Pharmacology of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, said GM food is hazardous commodities because they carried new proteins that may cause allergy.
The National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) and its team have this answer: “Contrary to common perception, it is natural foods, not additives and artificial flavors, which account for majority of food allergies like nuts, shrimps, crabs and others. In fact, any food that contains proteins has the potential to cause allergic reactions depending on individual susceptibility.
“Furthermore, extensive food safety evaluation has been implemented to minimize the possibility that allergenic proteins are introduced into commercialized genetically modified crops. There is no single commercialized genetically modified plant that is known to cause any significant risks of allergenicity.”
Cancer: People eating GM food are likely to be susceptible to cancer. This was discovered in a study conducted by Dr. Arpad Pusztai of the Rowett Institute on genetically engineered potatoes on rats. In his research, he fed rats on two strains of potatoes: one with genetically engineered with lectin from snowdrop bulbs and another with ordinary potatoes.
The result of his study: immune systems and brains, livers, kidneys and other vital organs of the rats fed with lectin-spiked potatoes were damaged while those fed with ordinary potatoes showed no damage at all.
“There is no evidence that the technologies used to produced-genetically modified foods are inherently harmful,” BIOTECH and other institutions concluded. Referring on the study done by Dr. Pusztai, they said it was debunked by the Royal Society of London. They found the Pusztai study as “flawed in experimental design, execution and analysis.”
Antibiotic resistance: Quijano said a scientific data indicate that “the emergence of new diseases, the rapid evolution of virulence and the widespread occurrence of drug and antibiotic resistance are associated with the rise of genetic engineering.”
The BIOTECH team claims otherwise: “The possibility that antibiotic resistance genes built into genetically modified plants could be transferred to bacteria harmful to humans has been thoroughly studied. To date, no reliable and stable transfer has been reported. In fact, there are no known mechanisms for effective transfer of genes from plant to bacteria under natural conditions.
Besides, antibiotics are used only in the laboratory during development process of the biotech crops. These, they claimed, do not produce antibiotics nor do they require application of antibiotics in the field.
Now, let’s take a closer look at those organizations which fully support the transgenic crops for human consumption.
“Foods produced using genetic modification is as safe as foods produced using conventional breeding techniques,” assures the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Genetically modified foods are as safe as other foods available on the market.”
The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) declared that different GM foods go through the global food safety process called Codex Alimentarius Risk Analysis of Foods Derived from Modern Biotechnology under which these foods are not found to be risky to human health.
“GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health,” said the UN health agency. “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. Continuous use of risk assessments based on the Codex principles and, where appropriate, including post market monitoring, should form the basis for evaluating the safety of GM foods.”
Last year, the premier American Medical Association issued this statement: “Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years and during that time; no overt consequences to human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”
The Royal Society of Medicine, an independent educational organization for doctors, dentists, scientists and others involved in medicine and health care in England, said: “Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world with no ill effects (or legal cases related to human health) despite many of the consumers coming from the most litigious of countries, the United States.”
Here’s the findings of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology and in particular GMOs are no more risky than conventional plant-breeding technologies.”
Safer than street foods
Meanwhile, Officer-in-charge Vivencio R. Mamaril of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) claims those foods that contain GMOs are safer to eat than those being sold in the streets.
The reason: transgenic crops undergo stricter tests and environmental assessments and could be much safer and more nutritious than street food consumed daily everywhere. Unlike street food items that are not regulated, GM crops have been subjected to extensive testing under a bio safety framework regarded as one of the strictest in the world.
This made him wonder why those anti-GM campaigners have been blasting away at GM crops but keeping silent on the safety concerns for street food. It may be because, he surmised, street food items are so common that no one bothers to ask if they are safe and nutritious for hundreds of thousands of pupils and students who consume them daily in spite of threats of microbial contamination.
“We may not all be so assiduous in guarding our rights in this situation, but what about on the food we eat? Are we always concerned with the safety of the food we consume? Is food quality in terms of safety our parameter in choosing what we eat? Do we read labels or are we more concerned with the price of the product we buy? These are the many questions that most consumer behavior researchers undertake,” asked Dr. Mamaril, who is also the director of the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Biotechnology Program.
“Take for example, why are there so many street foods being sold in front of schools and many other busy places? Is the selling of street foods regulated to guard the safety of consumers? The answer maybe is no. And why is this so? It could be because the types of food sold are those known to be commonly consumed. Examples are animals’ innards that are processed as fried, smoked or are skewered, eggs wrapped in flour, fish balls, chicken balls, squid balls, taho, and many others. The food quality concern in these kinds of foods could be microbial,” he said.
Now on the other side of the coin. As for GM products, food safety is a real concern. “Under our existing rules and regulations on GM crops, food safety is one the major concerns before such crops are given a biosafety permit. Other biosafety concerns are animal feeds and environmental safety,” Mamaril pointed out.
If you are given a choice, will you eat GM food or not? One sage puts his answer this way: “A man who has enough food has several problems. A man without food has only one problem.” Or as Horace puts it: “Only a stomach that rarely feels hungry scorns common things.”
-Written by Henrylito D. Tacio in BusinessMirror. See original article link here.
MANILA, Philippines – The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) reiterated the increasing importance of safe, and evidence- and science-based agricultural technologies in promoting agricultural productivity and food and nutrition security amid climate change and dwindling production resources.
Among these technologies is biotechnology, including both traditional (such as selective breeding and fermentation techniques) and modern (genetic engineering) techniques, which SEARCA looks at as an important tool in addressing the abovementioned challenges.
SEARCA is strongly pushing for “coexistence,” which, according to a report by the US Department of Agriculture Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, “is the concurrent cultivation of conventional, organic, identity preserved and genetically engineered crops consistent with underlying consumer preferences and farmer choices.”
Gil Saguiguit, director of SEARCA, made this statement following the Philippine launch of the annual report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) on the global status of commercialized biotech crops.
According to the ISAAA report, global planting of biotech crops reached 185.1 million hectares in 2016, up from 179.7 million hectares the previous year.
A total of 26 countries grew biotech crops, including the Philippines, which planted around 812,000 hectares of biotech yellow corn last year.
Biotech corn varieties, which are grown in the country since 2003, are pest resistant and herbicide tolerant, thus providing various documented benefits to Filipino farmers including significant increase in yield and reduction in production costs.
Saguiguit said that through SEARCA’s 10th five-year plan focused on Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (ISARD), the center believes that due attention must be given to resource poor farmers by providing them access to information, best practices, and new technologies that will increase their farm productivity.
Our goal is to give our farmers a fighting chance to cope with the many challenges and obstacles they face in farming. Through biotechnology and many other innovations, we hope to offer them better opportunities so that they can provide not only for their families but also contribute to the nation’s food security and overall development.
Along these lines, SEARCA qualifies that it only promotes agricultural technologies and practices that are known to be safe and do not compromise human and environmental health.
With the continuing opposition to biotechnology, Saguiguit said it is all the more important for the public, particularly decision and policymakers, to understand the said technology in the context of scientific and empirical evidence.
-Published in The Philippine STAR. See original article link here.
Press release: 5 June 2017: Dorchester, UK
A new report released today by PG Economics has found that over the last 20 years, crop biotechnology has significantly reduced agriculture’s environmental impact and stimulated economic growth in the 26 countries where the technology is used. The innovative agricultural technology has contributed to preserving the earth’s natural resources while allowing farmers to grow more, high quality crops. It has also helped alleviate poverty for 16.5 million, mostly smallholder farmers, in developing countries.
“Over the last 20 years, where farmers have been given access to, and the choice of growing biotech/GM crops, they have consistently adopted the technology, contributing to a more sustainable food supply and a better environment where they live,” said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the report.
Highlights in the peer reviewed2 report include:
Crop biotechnology has reduced agriculture’s environmental impact
- Crop biotechnology has significantly reduced agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions by helping farmers adopt more sustainable practices such as reduced tillage, which decreases the burning of fossil fuels and retains more carbon in the soil. Had biotech crops not been grown in 2015, for example, an additional 26.7 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide would have been emitted into the atmosphere, which is the equivalent of adding 11.9 million cars to the roads.
- From 1996 to 2015, crop biotechnology reduced the spraying of crop protection products by 619 million kilograms, a global reduction of 8.1 per cent. This is equal to more than China’s total crop protection product use each year3. As a result, farmers who grow biotech crops have reduced the environmental impact associated with their crop protection practices by 18.6 per cent4.
Crop biotechnology has reduced pressure to use new land in agriculture and contributed to global food security
Biotech crops allow farmers to grow more without needing to use additional land. For example, if crop biotechnology had not been available to farmers in 2015, maintaining global production levels that year would have required the planting of an additional 8.4 million hectares (ha) of soybeans, 7.4 million ha of corn, 3 million ha of cotton and 0.7 million ha of canola. This is equivalent to needing an additional 11 per cent of the arable land in the United States, or roughly 31 per cent of the arable land in Brazil or 13 per cent of the cropping area in China.
Crop biotechnology enables farmers to increase crop yields
• Insect resistant (IR) crop technology used in cotton and corn has consistently improved yields by reducing the damage caused by pests. From 1996 to 2015, across all users of this technology, yields have increased by an average of +13.1 per cent for IR corn and +15 per cent for IR cotton relative to conventional production systems. Farmers who grow IR soybeans commercially in South America have seen an average +9.6 per cent increase in yields since 2013.
• In some countries, herbicide tolerant (HT) technology has improved yields through better weed control. For example, in Bolivia, HT soybeans increased yields by +15 per cent. In Argentina, HT technology has helped farmers grow an additional soybean crop after wheat in the same growing season5.
• Biotech farmers in developing countries, many of whom are resource-poor and farm small plots of land, continue to see the highest yield gains from using the technology.
• Over 20 years, crop biotechnology has been responsible for the additional production of 180.3 million tonnes of soybeans, 357.7 million tonnes of corn, 25.2 million tonnes of cotton lint and 10.6 million tonnes of canola.
Crop biotechnology supports improved livelihoods, especially for poor, smallholder farmers in developing countries
• By better controlling pests and weeds, crop biotechnology helps farmers increase their yields, which leads to higher incomes and better lives for themselves and their families. In 2015, the net farm level economic benefit was $15.5 billion, equal to an average increase in income of $90/hectare. From 1996 to 2015, the net global farm income benefit was $167.7 billion.
Crop biotechnology contributes to global economic success
• Crop biotechnology continues to be a good investment for millions of farmers. In 2015, for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds globally, farmers netted an average $3.45.
• In 2015, farmers in developing countries received $5.15 for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds, whereas farmers in developed countries received $2.76 for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds.
For additional information, contact Graham Brookes at Tel +44(0) 1432 851007. www.pgeconomics.co.uk
1 Report available at www.pgeconomics.co.uk. Also, available as two papers (with open access), separately, covering economic and environmental impacts, in the peer review journal GM Crops and Food. The environmental paper is available at issue 2017, 8,2, p117-147 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21645698.2017.1309490. The economic impact paper is forthcoming in 2017, 8, issue 3.
2 Peer reviewed means accepted for publication in a scientific journal after review by independent experts in the subject(s).
3 Equal to 1.3 times annual use.
4 As measured by Cornell University’s Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) indicator.
5 By facilitating the use of reduced tillage, this effectively shortens the time between planting and harvesting of a crop
Biotechnology experts have reported increased production in 2016 in a rebound from stymied production the previous year due to regulatory barriers and persistent resistance from environmentalists.
But they insisted that progress in production—both in yield per area and total farm area planted—has spared forest lands from being invaded for farm production and has sharply cut down chemical use in farms, a potential that they hope would draw sharp interest from producers and governments.
Not only was 2016 noted for a rebound in biotechnology crop production, it also marked a spike in global production of genetically modified (GM) crops in the last two decades, and got more countries to adapt it, according to Dr. Paul S. Teng, chairman of the board of trustees of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application (Isaaa).
Last year Isaaa has noted that biotech crops were planted in 185.1 million hectares in 26 countries, which involved 18 million farmers.
“This is the fastest adapted crop technology in recent times,” the group said, citing the dominance of the developing world in the number of countries planting the GM crops.
Three developing nations—Brazil, Argentina and India—landed in the top five, with the US leading the list with its 72.9 million hectares, and Canada on the fourth spot.
The potential for wider global adaption of biotechnology would largely hinge on governments confronting the increasing urgency to find food for their people as lands remain constant and population kept multiplying.
To increase production yield per acre or per hectare of area would be likely a current arena, “even if you start with the hybrid variety”, Teng said.
Philippines top biotech grower in SEA
In the Philippines, Teng said the area planted to GM corn, for instance, has increased 16 percent to 812,000 hectares “as the country remains to be the top grower of biotech or GM crops in Southeast Asia”.
The Philippines ranked 12th as global producer of the GM corn today after it was also the first country in Southeast Asia to plant the crop in 2003, he added. The Philippine government approved its commercial production a year earlier.
The increase in area planted to corn was equivalent to 110,000 hectares, the Isaaa said.
GM corn is the leading GM crop in the country that is already being produced commercially. Three other crops are in their research and development stages. These are the stem borer-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis eggplant, ringspot virus-resistant and delayed ripening papaya and the fortified beta-carotene golden rice.
The progression in commercial production of GM corn was ascribed to “favorable weather conditions and high local demand for livestock and feed stocks”.
The increase is also reflected in the adaption by more farmers “mainly because of better income compared to non-GM corn,” Teng added. The increase though, was slight, at 65 percent for some 406,000 farmers.
What was significant in this number of farmers, he said, was that they average 2 hectares, a size common among small “resource-poor” Filipino farmers.
The Isaaa 2016 report, which was launched in Beijing, China, early this month, said Filipino farmers earned $642 million in the period 2003 to 2015. For 2015 alone, the GM-corn planters earned $82 million. The increase in hectarage and production was accounted by the 13 approvals granted by local governments for the cultivation of GM corn.
Challenge for poor regions
Although the developing world accounts for the big number of countries adapting biotechnology, the challenge was to increase its planting to, and yield per area, on crops that they heavily import from the developed economies.
Asia, for instance, which appears consistently green in any color-coded food production map, imports heavily on soybean from countries with minimal agriculture area but are known for high yields per farm area.
The potential to catch up and cut down on imports, is emerging for the developing, or poor, regions of the world. As of 2016 there were 19 countries in the poor region adapting biotechnology, although many of them raise GM crops for food, feeds and processing, unlike Chile and Costa Rica in South America that were growing modified crops already for export.
While countries were also adapting hybrid varieties of their food crops, Teng said this may provide the step closer to adapting biotechnology, which he said “should not be clouded in fear over their effects on the environment and human health”.
Isaaa noted that countries using biotechnology for farm production were adapting to the demands of their other food sectors, such as livestock. Brazil, it said, currently the largest GM crop-producing country among developing economies, may still raise its GM-maize production, as it expects its pork- and livestock-industry expands to meet the consuming market.
The regulatory barriers put up against GM crops has pulled back production through years, and Isaaa said there had been successes in some countries, including the Philippines, which has formed a four-Cabinet level interagency regulatory body.
Dr. Vivencio R. Mamaril, acting director of the Bureau of Plant Industry, said that while this interagency body may help bring into one body the diverse issues raised against biotechnology crops, “their diverse concerns, too, could be confusing and disconnected”.
He suggested that in the case of the Philippines, “government agencies, including Congress, should establish regulations now to avoid getting preempted by the entry of GM crops, especially during the Christmas season”.
“Government should be prepared this early to handle issues like entry of GM crops,” he said.
While the current production of GM crops is described as stymied due to regulatory barriers and ineffective responses to environment and health issues, the Isaaa said biotechnology adaption in the food production has already contributed a lot to biodiversity, better environment and livelihood to rural families.
It said the increase in crop yield per specific area compared to hybrid and traditional crop varieties earned for small farmers $167.8 billion between 1996 and 2015.
Teng said biotechnology has been contributing to the search by governments to find much higher yields per hectare and, by consequence, avoid the opening up of forest lands for farm cultivation.
In the period 2006 to 2016, the world saved 174 million hectares of forest lands from ploughing and cultivation because of the increased yield per acre or hectare of existing farm lands.
Teng added the GM crops were being developed to address specific diseases of commonly used crops, vegetables and fruits that have reduced the yields of these food items. These include the resistance of eggplants to stem borers, potatoes and apples to browning and papaya to ringspot virus.
In turn, he said, farmers have discarded expensive pesticides and saved a lot of farm income.
But the bigger beneficiary here is the environment, Teng said. The Isaaa report reveals a decline by 19 percent in the use of insecticides and herbicides, equivalent to 620 million kilograms of active ingredients of these chemicals.
And much more, he added, as fewer incidents of felled forest trees and applications of fossil fuels in chemical inputs helped the world prevent destructive carbon dioxide emissions estimated at 26.7 billion kilograms.
“It is equivalent to taking 11.9 million cars of the road for one year,” the Isaa added.
The more important also, Teng said, citing the Isaaa report, the better production yield and less use of chemical inputs have helped 18 million small farmers and their families.
“Its impact would cover an estimated 65 million people living in the poorest regions,” he said.
The Isaaa added that innovations still coming in would “revolutionize the development of new biotech crops and traits” and described this trend the “game changer” in the third decade of planting and commercialization of the GM crops.
-Written by Manuel Cayon in BusinessMirror. See original article link here.
From 1996 to 2014, biotech crops contributed to Food Security, Sustainability and the Environment/Climate Change by: increasing crop production valued at US$150 billion; providing a better environment, by saving 584 million kg a.i. of pesticides; in 2014 alone, reducing CO2 emissions by 27 billion kg, equivalent to taking 12 million cars off the road for one year; conserving biodiversity by saving 152 million hectares of land from 1996-2014; and helped alleviate poverty for ~16.5 million small farmers and their families totaling ~65 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world. Biotech crops are essential but are not a panacea – adherence to good farming practices such as rotations and resistance management, are a must for biotech crops as they are for conventional crops.
Source: ISAAA Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology (http://isaaa.org/kc)
Following a remarkable run of 19 years of consecutive yearly growth from 1996 to 2014, the annual global hectarage of biotech crops peaked at 181.5 million in 2014, compared with 179.7 million hectares in 2015, equivalent to a net marginal year-to-year decrease of 1.0% between 2014 and 2015. Some countries increased their total plantings, whilst others reduced their hectarage principally due to the current low prices of commodity crops; these hectarage decreases are likely to revert to higher hectarage levels when crop prices improve. The global hectarage of biotech crops increased 100-fold from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 179.7 million hectares in 2015, making biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent times.
Source: ISAAA Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology (http://isaaa.org/kc)
AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said genetically modified (GM) foods won’t be a “quick fix” in filling in gaps in the food supply.
“Personally, I’m not really convinced that GM plants are the quick-fix solution to our shortage of food,” Mr. Piñol told BusinessWorld in a phone interview.
He said Vietnam and Thailand have not extensively adopted GM and yet they produce enough to become the world’s second and third-largest rice exporters, respectively.
“If you look at Vietnam and Thailand, they do not embrace GM but they are self-sufficient. The belief that GM will provide the magical solution to our shortages… should be reviewed,” said Mr. Piñol.
This is the first time Mr. Piñol has indicated his position on GM, having asked previously for more time to evaluate the technology.
The current administration’s view is a reversal of former Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala’s position, which sought to incorporate GM in pushing up productivity.
Mr. Piñol added that he will nonetheless abide by the recent decision of the Supreme Court.
The country’s top court halted in December the use, field testing, and propagation of Bacillus thuringensis (Bt) eggplant, with the decision applicable to all genetically modified foods that are subject to regulation here.
To lift the moratorium, a new set of regulations required tighter environmental scrutiny before biosafety permits are issued, addressing one of the issues the Supreme Court cited when it voided the old rules, in place since 2002.
In August, however, the Supreme Court reversed itself since the initial decision was based on petitions that were rendered moot because Bt eggplant field trials had been completed and the biosafety permits issued by the regulator had expired.
For his part, Vivencio R. Mamaril, officer-in-charge at the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), cited yellow corn production, which is made up of 90% GM.
“We are sufficient in corn and that’s because of the GM technology,” Mr. Mamaril said in a phone interview, referring to yellow corn, which is used for feed.
Mr. Mamaril added that he has requested a meeting with Mr. Piñol to present the biotechnology program.
The bureau, along with the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines and the independent Scientific and Technical Review Panel, is in charge of biosafety, risk assessment, and regulation for all GM organisms that enter the Philippines.
The Philippines is the first country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to initiate a biotechnology regulatory system.
Philippine Maize Federation, Inc. (PhilMaize) President Roger V. Navarro said the country should consider adopting new ways to address the widening demand for food on the back of rapid population growth.
“There are a number of ways in order to achieve food sufficiency, like good agriculture practice, mechanization, post-harvest (management), enabling policies and certainly biotechnology is just one — to increase production per unit of land,” Mr. Navarro said in a mobile message.
“Our land is not increasing, but the demand is, ergo technology must come into play,” PhilMaize’s president added.
Last year, the country achieved 113% sufficiency in yellow corn, according to Mr. Navarro.
-Written by Janina C. Lim in BusinessWorld. See article link here.
1st Place, Professional: Biotech in Everyday Life
Anna Cherylle Ramos
University of Sto. Tomas
Organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture – Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) in celebration of Philippines National Biotechnology Week in 2014, the “Biotech Shorties” seeked to express the perspectives of film makers on the benefits of modern biotechnology in agriculture through three-minute videos or “shorties.” Contestants focused on any of the two themes: ”Biotech in Everyday Life” and “Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant.”
“Biotech in Everyday Life” delves into documented benefits and applications of modern biotechnology. These may include actual and/or potential benefits, products, and impact of applying crop biotechnology in agriculture.
“Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant” focuses on the potential advantages of the insect-resistant Bt eggplant for farmers and consumers.
-OPEN to all Filipino Nationals except the staff of ISAAA and SEARCA and their immediate relatives. Joining the contest is free of charge.
Professional and Amateur. The Professional category covers practicing film makers. The Amateur category is limited to ENROLLED undergraduate and high school students. The contestant/s must indicate in his/her entry the chosen theme and category.
GUIDELINES FOR ENTRIES
An entry should be a narrative in video format with a minimum playing time of two (2) minutes and a maximum playing time of three (3) minutes. Entries may be in English or Filipino. They may be live-action, animation or a combination of both. The messages of the videos must be based on proven facts. Contestants may use original, royalty-free, or copyrighted music for the videos. However, contestants who will use copyrighted music must submit a permit to use. A contestant may join in both themes, but may only submit one entry per theme.
File formats: mpeg, mp4, or avi. The file name of each entry should follow this format: category_lastname_firstname (Example: amateur_delacruz_juan.avi).
Entries were submitted in sealed envelope containing the following:
(1) Two (2) soft copies of the entry saved in separate CDs or flash disks.
(2) Sheet of paper with the following details, where appropriate:
– Position (if applicable)
– Contact numbers
– E-mail address
– Mailing address
– Topic – “Biotech in Everyday Life” or “Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant”
– Category – Professional or Amateur
(3) Permit to use if copyrighted music was used in the entry.
The contestant indicated his or her category on the upper left corner of the envelope.
CRITERIA FOR JUDGING
All video entries in both categories were judged based the following criteria:
Original Concept: 40%
Creative Production: 40%
* Musical Scoring
Relevance to the Theme: 20%
Check out and ‘Like’ our Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/BiotechShorties .
VIDEO SHOWING AND PRIZE-GIVING
The winning entries were shown during the 10th National Biotechnology Week celebration on November 24-28, 2014.
“Biotech in Everyday Life”
1st place – Php 70,000
2nd place – Php 30,000
1st place – Php 50,000
2nd place – Php 20,000
“Potential Benefits of Bt Eggplant”
1st place – Php 70,000
2nd place – Php 30,000
1st place – Php 50,000
2nd place – Php 20,000
ISAAA and SEARCA BIC have the copyright and exclusive use to publish online, reproduce, distribute, display, and create derivative works of all the entries for knowledge sharing initiatives and science popularization activities without further compensation to the artists.
This brochure answers frequently asked questions about biotechnology and its applications such as such as its scientific basis, various biotechnology tools used, its importance, and some basic facts about genetically modified crops.
To read the content of the brochure, click here.