Who’s afraid of genetically modified chickens?

DEALING with controversies can be stressful and migraine inducing. Still, I welcome heated discussions over certain topics if only because it will give light and popularize what was once obscure but nonetheless important issues. Take for instance the recent decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke the incorporation papers of online media site Rappler. Overnight, my social-media feeds are filled by posts of corporate law experts talking about Philippine Depositary Receipts and media ownership. Each posts will generate responses—and not just from lawyers or law students—either criticizing, defending or clarifying the SEC’s decision. Read more

SLAC says gov’t should go slow on genetically modified products

While the country takes baby steps towards the development of genetically modified food (GMO) products, there’s one company that isn’t happy about it and another group even fears it could only be a temporary solution to the country’s problems in terms of food security.

Read more

OPINION: Must we fear GMOs or start listening to science?

AS we are bombarded by scare tactics against plants with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn and Bt eggplant, we do not realize that almost everything we eat, many of the medicines we take, the cotton-based apparel we wear, the detergents we use in washing clothes and many of the beverages and processed canned goods we take are already genetically modified (GM).

Read more

Biotech crops reduce use of pesticides–experts

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that up to 35 percent of the losses in the annual crop production worldwide are due to pests—insects, weeds, plant diseases, rodents and birds.  Of the estimated 1 million insects in the world, between 150 and  200 species frequently cause serious damage to crops.

When losses due to pests are combined with postharvest losses, worldwide food losses would amount to 45 percent. “This is almost one half of the world’s potential food supply,” the FAO pointed out. Read more

Genetic Engineering — Its global benefits now and beyond

Agriculture could be defined as the manipulation of plant and animal DNA to suit the needs of humans. We have been changing the DNA of our food for 10,000 years. For most of agricultural history, we’ve had no idea what DNA changes occurred in our food. The discovery of recombinant DNA technologies in the 1970s began to change that. For the past 20 years we have been using genetic engineering (GE) to engineer precise DNA changes in our food.

Read more

Bangladesh plans to popularize controversial Bt brinjal

Environmentalists have been expressing serious concerns about biological and health hazards the new breed of brinjal may pose

The government plans to incentivise farmers to produce more genetically modified (GM) brinjal despite not having conducted any tests on its possible impact on human health and the environment.

Read more

Strengthening support for biotechnology in PHL

In its September 15 issue, the BusinessMirror cited diocesan priest Fr. Emmanuel Alparce, a member of the Department of Agriculture Biotech Program Technical Committee on Information, Education and Communication, who said that lawmakers should be open-minded about the biotechnological developments being conducted in the country that seek to curb poverty and improve the lives of Filipinos.

Read more

Davao’s vegetable council backs commercial planting of Bt eggplant in the Philippines

Davao’s vegetable council backs commercial planting of Bt eggplant in the Philippines

The Vegetable Industry Council of Southern Mindanao (Vicsmin) in the Philippines has expressed its full support for the commercial planting of Bt eggplant in the country. This came after Vicsmin officers and members signed a one-page manifesto of support during the roundtable discussion on Bt Eggplant held on September 4, 2017 in Davao City. Vicsmin, a non-profit organization that advocates policies beneficial to the vegetable industry in the region, has 40 active member institutions and 20 individual farmers.

After a thorough discussion with Dr. Lourdes D. Taylo, Bt eggplant study leader from the University of the Philippines Los Baños on the science, safety, and the potential actual benefits of modern biotechnology, Vicsmin in their one-page manifesto says: “We realize that Bt eggplant, which contains the gene similar to the insect-resistant Bt corn, can bring benefits to our communities such as higher yield and income, reduce chemical use, and improve environmental health. We believe that the Bt eggplant is a healthier and safer alternative solution against the relentless insect pest, the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB).”

Vicsmin President Gienovivo A. Cajes said, “If Bangladesh farmers are now planting Bt eggplant why can’t we plant it here?”

Biotech crops to be in more local farms

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

Pangasinan stakeholders learn about Bt brinjal, affirm support for Bt talong

Pangasinan stakeholders learn about Bt brinjal, affirm support for Bt talong

Farmers, local government constituents, and other key stakeholders in the province of Pangasinan, Philippines expressed their backing for, and willingness to adopt Bt talong(eggplant) by signing a declaration of support for its commercialization during a seminar with key people involved in the development and commercialization of Bangladesh’s Bt brinjal last July 27, 2017 at Pangasinan State University (PSU)-Sta. Maria Campus.

Read more

Biotech law needed to support BT eggplant, gene-silenced potato

An academic think tank said a stronger policy is needed to authorize planting and release of biotechnology crops like the Bt eggplant and “gene-silenced” non-browning potato, which could be the key to long term food security amid climate threats and the Philippines’ growing population.

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) said it supports the passage of a biotechnology law, which is more forcible than a memorandum circular or administrative order (AO).

“SEARCA has BIC (Biotechnology Information Center) which is its one-stop shop for biotechnology advocacy. We are in a position to support it (biotechnology law). We will capitalize on SEARCA’s strength in policy research to address the problem,” said SEARCA Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. in a biotechnology forum.

Saguiguit cited SEARCA’s crucial role in policies that affect food production and the environment.

SEARCA, together with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA), hosts BIC at its headquarters in Los Banos, Laguna.

It supports BIC as part of the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization’s focus to strengthen graduate agriculture education and related agricultural research carried out by academic experts.

-Published in FoodEvolution.  See original article link here.

GM crops planted in 185M ha worldwide


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.

Game changer

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.

Image Credits: Lyn Resurreccion

Biotech crops offer economic benefits

The economic benefits of planting biotech crops can never be underscored enough. According to the latest report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), Filipino farmers who planted Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn from 2003 to 2015 earned an estimated $642 million. For 2015 alone, ISAAA said farm income reached around $82 million. At the average exchange rate of P45.50 to the greenback, corn farmers netted P3.73 billion in 2015.

According to ISAAA, the Philippines ranks 12th in biotech crop commercialization for 2016, when 812,000 hectares of biotech maize have been planted. This is 16 percent higher than the 702,000 hectares planted with Bt corn in 2015. Data from the ISAAA also showed that adoption rates also increased last year to 65 percent, from 63 percent in 2015. The number of small farmers growing on average 2 hectares of Bt corn in the Philippines last year was estimated at 406,000, according to ISAAA.

Bt corn was the first genetically modified crop to be commercialized in the Philippines since 2002, when the government rolled out a regulatory framework that is considered a model in Southeast Asia. “The Philippines continues to be at the forefront of biotech research and commercialization in Southeast Asia and has a model for science-based and thorough regulatory policy in the region,” the ISAAA said in its report. Despite this, however, only one crop—Bt corn—has been commercialized.

There are a number of biotech crops that are currently in the pipeline: Golden Rice, Bt cotton, biotech papaya with delayed ripening and papaya ring spot virus, and the controversial fruit and shoot borer resistant Bt eggplant. The prospects of commercializing Bt eggplant, or Bt talong, dimmed when the Supreme Court (SC) ruled in December 2015 to stop its field testing. The SC also halted the processing of applications for contained use, field testing, propagation, commercialization and importation of GM products when it nullified Administrative Order 8 issued by the Department of Agriculture in 2002.

While the SC reversed its decision in August 2016, proponents of Bt talong have yet to push through with the field testing of the crop. Other crops in the pipeline, such as the Golden Rice, have yet to reach the field testing stage. But because it is the country’s staple, Golden Rice’s commercialization will not be smooth sailing. This, despite the absence of definitive proof that GM crops are harmful to human health and the existence of a regulatory framework that is regarded as worth emulating in other parts of the region.

Biotech crops, such as Bt corn, allow farmers to save on production cost because they will no longer have to extensively use pesticides to kill the corn borer insect. For now, only corn farmers in the Philippines are reaping the benefits offered by biotech crops. Hastening the commercialization of other biotech crops would allow more Filipino farmers to enjoy higher incomes and help them get out of poverty.

-Published in BusinessMirror.  See original article linke here.


ISAAA: Surplus, exports possible with Bt corn

The Philippines has the potential to become the top exporter of corn in Asean, especially if more Filipino farmers would plant Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn to expand their output, according to international experts.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri Biotech Applications (ISAAA) told the BusinessMirror that planting more Bt corn would allow the Philippines to have a corn surplus, which it could export to neighboring Asian countries.

“Many Asian countries are short of corn and the Philippines could supply their requirement,” Dr. Paul S. Teng, ISAAA board of trustees chairman, said on the sidelines of a news briefing on the global status of genetically modified (GM) crops in 2016, held recently in Alabang.

“Malaysia imports corn, Indonesia imports corn, so these countries would look for possible sources. Only the Philippines plants Bt corn in this region and it has a good history of growing corn, so I think it could become an exporter,” Teng added.

He also noted that the cost of shipping from the Philippines is much lower.

Based on the report of the ISAAA, titled “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2016”, the total hectarage planted with Bt corn in the Philippines reached 812,000 hectares, making the country the 12th-biggest producer of GM crops in the world. The figure was 16 percent higher than the 702,000 hectares recorded in 2015.

“The increase is due to favorable weather conditions, and high local demand for livestock and feed stocks,” ISAAA said.

ISAAA also reported that the adoption rate of Bt corn by Filipino farmers increased to 65 percent in 2016, from 63 percent in 2014. This means that out of the total 1.248 million hectares planted with corn, 812,000 hectares were of Bt seed varieties.

Out of the planted hectarage, 679 hectares were planted with stack traits corn, while the remaining 133,000 hectares were planted with single trait corn.

“In 2003 the area for Bt corn did not even reach 50,000 hectares, and now we are talking about 800,000 hectares. We have yet to receive reports that Bt maize has done harm or caused ailment,” Bureau of Plant Industry OIC Director Dr. Vivencio R. Mamaril said.

“The mere fact that planting area grew to 800,000 hectares is proof that it is a successful crop and farmers believed in it,” Mamaril added.

The ISAAA report noted that Filipino farmers earned an estimated $642 million from planting GM corn in 2003 to 2015. In 2015 alone, farmers recorded earnings of $82 million.

The number of small resource-poor farmers, growing on average 2 hectares of biotech maize in the Philippines in 2016, was estimated at 406,000, up from 350,000 in 2015. Biotech maize is the only GM crop commercialized in the Philippines.

Since the approval of Bt maize in 2003, a total of 6.03 million hectares have been planted with the GM crop, according to the estimates of ISAAA.

The Philippines is currently in the process of developing other biotech crops, including the Bt eggplant, Bt cotton, and Golden Rice.

Written by Jasper Arcalas in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.