Filipino farmers trained on biotech and science communication

Filipino farmers trained on biotech and science communication

Farmer-leaders and members of the Asian Farmers Regional Network Philippines (ASFARNET) from all over the country learned about the products, science, safety, and potential benefits of biotechnology as well as strategies and skills for biotech communication during the Trainer’s Training-Workshop Series 2017: Agri-biotechnology Capacity Building for ASFARNET-Philippines on September 21-22, 2017 at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

Read more

Social media crucial in agri-innovations

RECOGNIZING the trend of the present day, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications and the Department of Agriculture-Davao conducted last Thursday, August 17, a seminar on Communicating Agri-Innovations thru Social Media at the Pinnacle Hotel and Suites in Davao City.

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

Coexistence of agri technologies pushed

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.

From Frankenfood to Light of Hope:17 Years of Agri-biotech Reporting in the Philippines (2000-2016)

From Frankenfood to Light of Hope:17 Years of Agri-biotech Reporting in the Philippines (2000-2016)

This publication features the 17-year (2000-2016) study conducted by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (BIC).  The study was conducted to see the trends in media reporting in print and online on agricultural biotechnology. 

PUBLISHED BY: The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)

CITATION: Tome, Kristine Grace N., Mariechel J. Navarro, Sophia M. Mercado, and Maria Monina Cecilia
A. Villena. Seventeen Years of Media Reportage of Biotechnology in the Philippines. Philippine
Journal of Crop Science xx(xx): xx-xx.


Download PDF copy (1MB)The first 10 years (2000–2009) was initially published in 2011 covering the development and commercialization of biotech corn in the country as reported in print by the top three national dailies, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Philippine Star.

The following seven years (2010–2016) was published in 2017, covering the recent happenings in the Philippine biotechnology arena such as the research and development of biotech food crops, Bt eggplant (pest resistant eggplant) and Golden Rice (Vitamin A-enriched rice). Aside from the top three newspapers, articles published by Business Mirror were also included in the study because of its significant increase in the number of articles on agricultural biotechnology. Online articles from the four newspapers were also included in the study to get more holistic understanding of biotechnology discussion in the country. The articles were classified and analyzed according to type, topic, tone, focus, sources, media frames, and use of metaphors.

Download PDF copy

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

Study analyzes 17 years of modern biotech news reporting in the Philippines

The Philippine media developed a matured editorial position over 17 years of modern biotechnology reporting, according to the new publication of ISAAA titled From Frankenfood to Light of Hope: 17 Years of Agri-biotech Reporting in the Philippines (2000-2016). The publication is based on a study conducted by ISAAA and SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center published in the April 2017 issue of Philippine Journal of Crop Science.

The initial 10-year study (2000-2009) authored by Dr. Mariechel Navarro and colleagues showed that majority of the reports from the top newspapers, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Philippine Star were about the development and commercialization of biotech corn in the Philippines. The coverage was high in terms of the number of articles, but sensationalism and speculations were evident, since a biotech crop was just introduced and commercialized in the country. Negative metaphors such as “frankenfood” and “poison” were commonly used in the initial years of reporting. The follow up study (2010-2016) conducted by Kristine Grace Tome, Dr. Navarro, and colleagues showed that the use of fear metaphors declined, and an increasing effort to present science-based information became more evident in the succeeding years. More positive metaphors such as “new hope”, “answer to farmers’ dreams”, and “light of hope” were used in the articles depicting favorable potential or promise of the technology. Bt eggplant development and field trial case sparked the interest of journalists to write about biotechnology. Articles from Business Mirror were also included in the analysis of 2010-2016 articles due to its high coverage on biotechnology.

Media practitioners and scientists were encouraged to continue to collaborate to sustain media coverage of biotechnology in the Philippines. With the increasing use of social media, a new breed of information seekers and producers could help revolutionize discourses on biotechnology not just in the Philippines, but also in other countries.

Download the publication from the ISAAA website.

-Published in ISAAA’s Crop Biotech Update.  See original article link here.

ISAAA presents 2016 Annual Report on GM crops adoption in 2016

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) launched its 2016 report titled Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016. Two launch events were held on May 4 and 5, 2017 in Beijing, China.

The media conference held on May 4, 2017 at China Wold Hotel was attended by some 40 journalists from Chinese and international news agencies. ISAAA Chair, Dr. Paul Teng, presented the highlights of the report. He stressed that the adoption of biotech crops increased to 185.1 million hectares in 2016 after the slight decline observed in 2015. ISAAA Senior Program Officer, Dr. Rhodora Aldemita, talked about the development and adoption of biotech crops in Asia.

The following day, a seminar was held on May 5, 2017 at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which was attended by 120 scientists, members of the academe, and students. Drs. Paul Teng and Rhodora Aldemita presented the highlights of the ISAAA report. Mr. Zhang Xianfa from the Ag GMO Division of the Ministry of Agriculture discussed the status of Chinese biotech crops regulation and development. The participants signified their interest in the adoption of more biotech crops in the country to benefit not just the farmers and their families, but also the consumers.

The events were organized in cooperation with China Biotechnology Information Center, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the Chinese Biotechnology Society.

For more information about the events, send an email to The ISAAA report is downloadable at the ISAAA website.

-Published by ISAAA.  See original article link here.

ISAAA Brief 52-2016: Executive Summary

This 2016 ISAAA Brief is an extension of the 20 Volumes of Annual Briefs (1996 to 2015) on global status of biotech/GM crops authored by Clive James,
Founder & Emeritus Chairman of ISAAA


The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications publishes the Annual Global Review of Biotech Crops Commercialization or ISAAA Briefs. ISAAA Brief 52 is the 21st of the series which documents the latest information on the subject, global database on the adoption and distribution of biotech crops in 2016 as well as the accumulative data since 1996 (the first year of commercialization), country situations, trends in approval of biotech crops, and future prospects of the technology in the biotech crop growing countries and the world. ISAAA Brief is one of the most cited references in the field of modern agri-biotechnology due to its credibility and accuracy. Since the adoption of biotech crops in 1996, ISAAA has remained the single most prominent source of this information.

The year 2016 was momentous since for the first time, Nobel Laureates released a statement in support of biotechnology and condemning critics in their critical stance against the technology and Golden Rice. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, International Food and Policy Research Institute, the G20 countries and other like-minded bodies, guided by 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Agriculture have committed to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in 15 years or less. More importantly, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a review of 900 researches on biotech crops since 1996 and found that genetically modified crops and conventionally-bred crops have no difference in terms of probable risks to human health and the environment. Biotech crops have now had an unblemished record of safe use and consumption for over 20 years. 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.

Highlights of the 2016 Adoption of Biotech Crops:

•     Biotech crop planting in 2016 resumes high adoption at 185.1 million hectares worldwide.

A year after the second decade of commercialization of biotech/GM crops in 2016, 26 countries grew 185.1 million hectares of biotech crops – an increase of 5.4 million hectares or 3% from 179.7 million hectares in 2015. Except for the 2015 adoption, this is the 20th series of increases every single year; and notably 12 of the 20 years were double-digit growth rates.


•     Biotech crops provide more diverse offerings to consumers in 2016

Biotech crops have expanded beyond the big four (corn, soybean, cotton, and canola) to give more choices for many of the world’s consumers. These biotech crops include sugar beet, papaya, squash, eggplant, potatoes that are already in the market, as well as apples which will be in the market in 2017. Potato is the fourth important staple crop in the world and eggplant is the number one vegetable consumed in Asia. Non-bruising and non-browning apples and potatoes can contribute to the reduction of food waste. Additionally, research done by public sector institutions include crops such as rice, banana, potato, wheat, chickpea, pigeon pea, mustard and sugarcane at advanced stages of evaluation, and are likely to provide even more diverse offerings to consumers, especially those in developing countries.

•     New biotech crops and traits in the pipeline for the benefit of farmers and consumers

It is noteworthy that new biotech crops and traits are being field tested to cater to farmers and consumers. These include among others, staple crops such as beta-carotene enriched Golden Rice being tested in the Philippines and Bangladesh; bunchy top virus resistant biotech banana in Uganda; Fusarium wilt resistant biotech banana and biotech wheat with disease resistance, drought tolerance, altered oil content and grain composition being field tested in Australia; high yield and biomass wheat in the United Kingdom; late blight resistant potato varieties Desiree and Victoria in Uganda and late blight and nematode resistant potato variety Maris Piper with less bruising and less acrylamide potato in the EU; insect resistant chickpea and pigeon pea, and biotech mustard which are staple vegetables and oil source, respectively, in India; drought tolerant sugarcane in India and Indonesia; and omega-3 enriched camelina in the EU.

•     Biotech crops increased ~110-fold from 1996, the fastest adopted crop technology in the world; accumulated hectarage at 2.1 billion hectares

Global hectarage of biotech crops has increased ~110-fold from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 185.1 million hectares in 2016 – this makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent times. An accumulated 2.1 billion hectares or 5.3 billion acres was achieved in 21 years (1996-2016) of biotech crop commercialization.

•     26 countries, 19 developing and 7 industrial countries grew biotech crops



The 185.1 million hectares of biotech crops were grown by 26 countries, of which 19 were developing and 7 industrial countries. Developing countries grew 54% (99.6 million hectares) of the global biotech crop area compared to 46% (85.5 million hectares) for industrial countries.

•     Biotech soybean reached 50% of global biotech crop hectarage

The four major biotech crops: soybean, maize, cotton, and canola, in decreasing area, were the most adopted biotech crops by 26 countries. The area planted to biotech soybean was the highest at 91.4 million hectares, which is 50% of the global hectarage of 185.1 million hectares for all biotech crops.  Although the soybean area only showed a marginal decrease of 1% from 2015 (92.7 million hectares), the area is still substantial at 91.4 million hectares. Based on the global crop hectarage for individual crops, 78% of soybean, 64% of cotton, 26% of maize and 24% of canola were biotech in 2016.

•     Stacked traits occupied 41% of the global hectarage, second to herbicide tolerance at 47%

Herbicide tolerance deployed in soybean, canola, maize, alfalfa, and cotton, has consistently been the dominant trait at 47% of the global hectarage. A declining trend on herbicide tolerant crops planted was observed with the rise of stacked traits (combined insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, and other traits). The area planted to herbicide tolerant crops was 86.5 million hectares in 2016, occupying 47% of the global biotech hectarage of 185.1 million hectares. On the other hand, area planted to stacked traits increased by 29% in 2016 at 75.4 million hectares from 58.4 million hectares in 2015. Stacked traits occupied 41% of the global biotech crop hectarage of 185.1 million hectares.


•     Of the top five countries growing 91% of biotech crops, three are developing countries (Brazil, Argentina, and India) and two are industrial (USA and Canada).

USA leads biotech crop planting in 2016 at 72.9 million hectares, followed by Brazil (49.1 million hectares), Argentina (23.8 million hectares), Canada (11.6 million hectares) and India (10.8 million hectares) (Table 1, Figure 1) for a total of 168.2 million hectares, 91% of the global hectarage.



USA continued to be the leader in the global commercialization of biotech crops since 1996. In 2016, 72.9 or ~73 million hectares were planted to major biotech crops: maize (35.05 million hectares), soybean (31.84 million hectares), cotton (3.70 million hectares), some areas of biotech crops: alfalfa (1.23 million hectares), canola (0.62 million hectares), and sugar beet (0.47 million hectares) and small areas of virus resistant papaya and squash (1,000 hectares each), and non-browning Innate™ potatoes (2,500 hectares). The USDA estimates indicate that the percentage adoption of the three principal biotech crops were at, or close to optimal adoption: soybean at 94% (same as 2015), maize 92% (same as 2015), and cotton 93% (lower by 1% in 2015) (USDA, NASS, 2016), for an average of 93%. The 2016 biotech crop area in the USA of ~73 million hectares is 39% of the global biotech area and 3% higher than the 2015 planting of 70.9 million hectares. The immediate increase of biotech/GM crop planted area in the USA in 2016 indicates that the 2015 slight decrease attributed to low commodity prices of maize and cotton was only temporary. Resumption of global prices and the active trade with countries for livestock feeds, food processing, and biofuel needs in 2016 put the US biotech crop adoption back on track with 3% increase from 2015.

Brazil retained its #2 world ranking after the US, with 49.1 million hectares of biotech crops planted, representing 27% of the global hectarage of 185.1 million hectares. Brazil’s total biotech crop hectarage of ~49.14 million hectares is an increase of 11%, from 2015 (44.2 million hectares), or 4.9 million hectares. This 4.9 million hectare increase was by far the highest increase in any country worldwide in 2016 making Brazil the engine of growth in biotech crops worldwide. Biotech crops planted include: ~32.7 million hectares biotech soybean; 15.7 million hectares of biotech maize (summer and winter maize); and ~0.8 million hectares of biotech cotton. The total planted area of these three crops in Brazil was estimated at 52.6 million hectares of which 49.14 million hectares or 93.4% was biotech. The adoption rate of 93.4% is a 2.7% increase in adoption compared to 2015 (90.7%). Similar to the U.S., adoption rates of the three major biotech crops are almost optimal at an average of 93.4%. IR/HT soybean Intacta™ has gained popularity among the farmers because of the savings in pesticide and the no-till technology, thus, the increased hectarages. The need for continuous and steady supply of maize for pork and livestock industry in the country may push farmers to plant more maize in 2017.


Argentina maintained its ranking as the third largest producer of biotech crops in the world in 2016, after the USA and Brazil, occupying 13% of global hectarage. The country planted 23.82 million hectares, 0.67 million hectares less than the 24.49 million hectares in 2015. Biotech crops in the country was comprised of 18.7 million hectares of biotech soybean, an all time high of 4.74 million hectares of biotech maize and a reduced cotton biotech area of 0.38 million hectares. The country had a slight decline in hectarages of biotech crops due largely to soybean and minimally with cotton due to global low cotton prices. The adverse weather condition was not conducive to wheat planting and affected the 2nd soybean planting after wheat. On the other hand, increased maize planting was mainly due to favorable weather conditions. With almost maximum adoption of biotech crops in Argentina of 97%, expansion of biotech crop commercialization can be achieved using new crops and traits.

Canada is fourth in world ranking of biotech crops, with an area of 11.55 million hectares, a 5% increase from 2015 of 10.95 million hectares, with an average adoption rate of 93%, similar to 2015. The four biotech crops grown in Canada in 2016 were canola (7.53 million hectares), soybean (2.08 million), maize (1.49 million), sugar beet (8,000 hectares with 100% adoption) and for the first time low lignin alfalfa (809 hectares). Total planting of these crops also increased by 5% from 11.74 million hectares (2015) to 12.38 million hectares. The country increased biotech crop planting following increases in total area of canola, soybean, and maize. Canola Council of Canada actively pursues its Strategic Plan of producing 26 MMT canola by 2025 through yield improvement technologies. Increase in soybean area is due to its profitability and high oilseed prices. For maize, increased gasoline and ethanol consumption due to lower gas prices provided incentive for maize planting.

India had a slight decrease (7%) in biotech cotton planting brought by a small reduction in the total cotton area (8%) in the 10 states of India. Adoption however increased from 95% to 96% indicative of acceptance by as much as 7.2 million farmers benefiting from the technology. Biosafety regulations in the country have been streamlined with revised guidelines on the monitoring of confined field trials of biotech crops. Biotech mustard expressing the barnase-barstar gene is under final review including public comments for environmental release in 2017. Mustard production and yields have remained stagnant for the past 20 years and the future introduction of the biotech mustard can potentially increase yield by as much as 25%, revive the mustard industry and be competitive with canola. Insect resistant chickpea and pigeon pea were approved for field trials by the government regulatory agency in 2016. India retained the title as the number one cotton-producing country in the world with cotton production surpassing 35 million bales despite the slowed down global cotton market.

•     Ten countries in Latin America grew ~80 million hectares of biotech crops 

Except for Chile and Costa Rica which continuously plant biotech crops for export, biotech crop countries in Latin America grew biotech crops for food, feed and processing. Brazil obtained the highest increase of 11% or 4.9 million hectares of biotech crops in 2016 and occupied 27% of the global biotech crop area. Intacta™ has gained popularity among farmers because of savings in pesticide and the no-till technology. Adoption rates of the three major biotech crops were almost optimum at an average of 93.4% in Brazil and Argentina. Total soybean and biotech plantings in Argentina and Bolivia were affected by severe drought. Moreover, in Paraguay, marginal decrease in soybean area was due to competition with maize planting to cater for the increasing demand of the expanding pork industry in the country. In Mexico, reduced soybean planting was due to conflicts resulting from negative propaganda for biotech crops. Biotech soybean and maize decreased in Uruguay due to lowered prices, higher production costs and positive policy developments for grain and soybean sector in Argentina. Lowered cotton prices also negatively affected Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia.


The possible expansion in the pork and livestock industry in Brazil may push farmers to plant more maize in 2017. New products waiting to be commercialized which are expected to impact the Brazilian economy are the biotech eucalyptus and virus resistant bean. In Argentina, the development of drought tolerant soybean which is now in testing stage will allow utilization of marginal areas affected by drought. Also, adoption of virus resistant potato will be beneficial to farmers in increasing yield and reduction of production cost. The area expansion in Paraguay and Colombia for total maize was due to the increasing expansion of the pork industry. This is likely to continue in the next few years with maize prices relatively higher due to demand from Brazil and Chile. Biotech maize adoption may also increase consequently. Countries affected by low global cotton prices may rebound back as soon as prices become stable, similar to maize which suffered low prices in the last two years. New biotech crops and traits that can withstand drought and other stress will be a welcome respite from the losses of the past years.

•     Eight countries in Asia and the Pacific grew ~18.6 million hectares of biotech crops

Biotech crops planted in the 8 biotech crop countries of Asia and the Pacific ranged from fiber (cotton), feed (maize and canola) and food (maize and eggplant). Adoption of these biotech crops varied in 2016: India and China’s biotech cotton planting were extremely affected by low global cotton prices, while Pakistan and Myanmar maintained their biotech cotton area. The area planted to biotech maize in the Philippines and Vietnam increased due to high demand for livestock and poultry feeds, as well as favorable weather conditions. In Australia, favorable weather conditions after two years of drought permitted increased planting of biotech cotton and canola. In addition, farmers were provided BollgardIII/RR®Flex cotton for extreme insect pest protection with herbicide tolerance. Bangladesh increased its Bt eggplant planting to 700 hectares and more brinjal varieties with Bt gene are being field tested for future commercialization.

There are still huge potential biotech maize areas in China, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines, as well as biotech cotton for Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines. In China, food and manufacturing industry considered potato as the fourth staple with renewed interest on its research, development and production. The upcoming biotech potatoes which are non-bruising, low acrylamide, lowered reducing sugar and late blight resistant, as well as beta-carotene enriched Golden Rice will help address malnutrition and hunger in Asia and the Pacific.

•     Four countries in the European Union continued to plant biotech maize at more than 136,000 hectares

Four countries in the EU (28) continued to plant biotech maize (IR maize event MON 810). In 2016, they were Spain with 129,081 hectares, Portugal (7,069 hectares), Slovakia (138 hectares) and Czechia (75 hectares) for a total of 136,363 hectares. Thus, a significant difference of 19,493 hectares or 17% increase from 116,870 in 2015 was achieved. The more than 95% of the total biotech maize in the EU was planted in Spain.  In Spain and Slovakia, increases in biotech maize planting were due to favorable farmers’ decision to plant insect resistant maize because of the devastating European corn borer infestation. In Portugal, in addition to the low market price of maize, drought spell affected the highest maize producing state, Alentejo. This resulted to a decline in total maize area and consequently the biotech maize area. In Czechia however, the continuing decline in biotech crop planting was due to the inconvenience of stringent reporting requirements for IR maize resulting in less incentive for farmers and all stakeholders seeking to capture the benefits offered by IR maize. This matter also affected Romania, which, similar to the other countries have opted to grow GM crops after the EU directive was issued in 2015. Thus, for 2016, there was no biotech maize planting in Romania.

Possible expansion of biotech crops in these countries includes the approval of new crops and traits that will address the recurring problem of corn borer infestation such as the various IR/HT maize technologies. In addition, drought tolerant maize available in the US and a product similar to the biotech maize with drought and insect resistant trait of the WEMA Project will benefit farmers in Portugal.

•     South Africa and Sudan had increased planting of biotech crops

By 2016, at least four countries had in the past placed a GM crop in the market – Burkina Faso, Egypt, South Africa, and Sudan. However, due to a temporary setback in Burkina Faso and Egypt, only South Africa and Sudan planted biotech crops at 2.8 million hectares. South Africa is one of the top ten countries planting more than 1 million hectares in 2016 and continued to lead the adoption of biotech crops in the African continent. Biotech maize, soybean and cotton area increased to 2.66 million hectares in 2016, a 16% increase from the 2.29 million hectares in 2015.

A new wave of acceptance is emerging in the continent. Three countries: Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria transitioned from research to granting environmental release approvals, while six others – Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Swaziland and Uganda made significant progress in moving towards completion of multi-location trials in readiness for considering commercial approval. Three of these crops – banana, cowpea and sorghum are new and primarily for food security. It is noteworthy that under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), Tanzania planted its first ever confined field trial of drought tolerant maize while Mozambique granted its first ever approval for a confined field trial of a stacked trait, an insect reistant and drought tolerant maize.

Status of approved events for biotech crops used in food, feed, and processing

Biotech crops were planted in small scale as early as 1994 and large scale plantings were recorded in 1996. From 1994 to 2016, a total of 40 countries (39 + EU – 28) have issued regulatory approvals to genetically modified crops for consumption either as food and/or feed as well as for environmental release. From these countries, 3,768 approvals have been issued by regulatory authorities across 26 GM crops (not including those for carnation, rose and petunia) and 392 GM events. Of these approvals, 1,777 are for food use (direct use or for processing), 1,238 are for feed use (direct use or for processing) and 753 are for environmental release or cultivation (Table 2). Maize still has the most number of approved events (218 in 29 countries), followed by cotton (58 events in 22 countries), potato (47 events in 11 countries), canola (38 events in 14 countries), and soybean (35 events in 28 countries).

The herbicide tolerant maize event NK603 (54 approvals in 26 countries + EU-28) still has the most number of approvals. It is followed by herbicide tolerant soybean GTS 40-3-2 (53 approvals in 27 countries + EU-28), insect resistant maize MON810 (52 approvals in 26 countries + EU-28), insect resistant maize Bt11 (50 approvals in 24 countries + EU-28), insect resistant maize TC1507 (50 approvals in 24 countries + EU-28), herbicide tolerant maize GA21 (49 approvals in 23 countries + EU-28), insect resistant maize MON89034 (48 approvals in 24 countries + EU-28),  herbicide tolerant soybean A2704-12 (42 approvals in 23 countries + EU-28),  insect resistant maize MON88017 (41 approvals in 22 countries + EU-28), insect resistant cotton MON531 (41 approval in 21 countries + EU-28), herbicide tolerant maize T25 (40 approvals in 20 countries + EU-28) and insect resistant maize MIR162 (40 approvals in 21 countries + EU-28).



Global value of the biotech seed market alone was US$15.8 billion in 2016.

In 2016, the global market value of biotech crops, estimated by Cropnosis was US$15.8 billion (up by 3% from US$15.3 billion in 2015); this represents 22% of the US$73.5 billion global crop protection market in 2016, and 35% of the US$45 billion global commercial seed market. The estimated global farm-gate revenues of the harvested commercial “end product” (the biotech grain and other harvested products) are more than ten times greater than the value of the biotech seed alone.

Contribution of biotech crops to food security, sustainability and climate change

Biotech crops contributed to food security, sustainability and climate change by:
•     increasing crop productivity 574 million tons valued at US$167.8 billion in 1996-2015; and 75 million tons valued at US$15.4 billion in 2015 alone;
•     conserving biodiversity in 1996 to 2015 by saving 174 million hectares, and 19.4 million hectares in 2015 alone;
•     providing a better environment
–    by saving 620 million kg. active ingredient (a. i.) of pesticides in 1996-2015, and by  37.4 million kg in 2015 alone;
–    by reducing pesticide applications, saving 8.1% in 1996-2015, and by 6.1% in 2015 alone;
–    by reducing EIQ (Environmental Impact Quotient) by 19% in 1996-2015, and by 18.4% in 2015 alone
•     reducing CO2 emissions in 2015 by 26.7 billion kg, equivalent to taking 11.9 million cars off the road for one year; and
•     helped alleviate poverty by helping 18 million small farmers, and their families totaling  >65 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world (Brookes and Barfoot, 2017, Forthcoming).

Thus, biotech crops can contribute to a “sustainable intensification” strategy favored by many science academies worldwide, which allows productivity/production to be increased only on the current 1.5 billion hectares of global crop land, thereby saving forests and biodiversity. Biotech crops are essential but are not a panacea and adherence to good farming practices, such as rotations and resistance management, are a must for biotech crops as they are for conventional crops.


Regulatory barriers holding back biotechnology’s benefits

Onerous regulation for transgenic crops remains the principal constraint to adoption, which is particularly important for many developing countries, denied the opportunity of using biotech crops to address food, feed, and fiber security. Opponents of GM crops are against  science-based regulation and are demanding onerous regulation that is denying poor farmers in the developing countries, as well as Europe’s access to the technologies. All these challenges are faced by farmers and technology developers  despite the overwhelming evidence in support of the safe use of these technologies. By using these technologies, small poor farmers will be able to survive and contribute to the doubling of food production to meet the needs of a growing population which will reach over 11 billion in 2100.

Future of Biotech Crops: A Game Changer

As biotech crops enter the third decade of planting/commercialization, game changing innovations are projected to revolutionize development of new biotech crops and traits. Firstly, the increasing adoption and appreciation by farmers of stacked traits; secondly, the advent of biotech crops and traits that not only cater to farmers agricultural needs but more so the preference and nutritional needs of consumers; and thirdly, the heightened utilization of innovative tools of gene discovery and their subsequent use in crop improvement and varietal development.

The first generation of biotech crops targeted input traits of herbicide tolerance, insect resistance and virus resistance where farmers and food producers benefited economic gains of 574 million tons valued at US$167.8 billion in 1996-2015. These benefits also provided accessible food and nutrition for the 7.4 billion global population. The second generation biotech crops include stacks of these traits, as well as drought tolerance – one of the problems related to climate change. Adoption of IR/HT soybean (Intacta™) and corn rootworm stacks for maize have been phenomenal with an economic benefit of US$2.4 billion in 2013-2015 and US$12.6 billion in 2003 to 2015, respectively (Brookes and Barfoot, 2017 Forthcoming).

Output traits for improved quality and composition were the traits of the third generation biotech crops geared towards consumer preference and nutrition. These include the various health-improving products of soybean for humans and animals (omega-3 fatty acids, high oleic acid, low phytate, and high stearic acid), modified starch/sugar (potato), low-lignin (alfalfa), non-browning potatoes which are already available; non-browning apples projected to be available in the US market in 2017; as well as beta-carotene and ferritin in major staple crops which are already in the advanced stages of development. It is noteworthy that Innate™ potato series have been commercialized successfully in the USA, with 2,500 hectares of potatoes and 70,000 non-browning apple trees (~81 hectares). Acceptance of these two biotech crops can contribute in the reduction of food waste due to browning and easy spoilage of products.

Innovative molecular biology tools are continuously being developed and tapped to discover new genes that would make food available, accessible and nutritious. Biotech products which are already in field testing and maybe released in the next few years reflect the increasing trends for various inputs and output traits for farmers and consumers. Staple crops such as rice, banana, potato, wheat, ryegrass, Indian mustard, chickpea, pigeon pea and sugarcane, among others were improved to contain new traits for insect and disease resistance, drought and stress tolerance, improved nutritional content, and yield and biomass among others.

The encouraging outlook is that technology, in conjunction with conducive policies can double food production. However, the doubling of food production cannot be realized by society unless it ensures that regulation of GM crops is science/evidence-based, fit for purpose, and to the extent possible harmonized globally. Failure by global society to ensure timely and appropriate regulation on food production will have dire consequences. On the one hand, the world will suffer because of inadequate food supplies, while on the other hand, the power of science and technology to produce a safe, adequate and assured supply of food for all mankind will be rejected because of the dominant ideological voices of the opponents of the new biotechnologies.


In 2016, global hectarage of biotech crops increased from 179.7 million hectares to 185.1 million hectares, a 3% increase equivalent to 5.4 million hectares. Predictions made by James, C. (2015) that the slight decline in biotech crop area in 2015 due to the low global commodity price would immediately reverse once crop prices revert to higher levels were realized – this is contrary to propaganda by critics that biotech crops are failing the farmers. Fluctuations in biotech crop hectarage of this order (both increases and decreases) are influenced by several factors. In 2016, these factors were: acceptance and commercialization of new products in the USA, Brazil and Australia; increasing demand for pork and livestock feeds in Brazil; needs for livestock and poultry feeds in Vietnam; favorable weather conditions and improved market price for maize in the Philippines and Honduras; need to address corn borer infestation in Spain and Slovakia; government’s strategic plan to harness biotechnology and improve economy in Canada; the lifting of the GM ban in West Australia; and consumers demand for more of the clean and healthy brinjal in Bangladesh. Biotech crop hectarage in Myanmar and Pakistan did not change, as in some smaller countries.

A few countries had decreased biotech crop planting due to global low cotton prices such as in Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico, and high cotton reserve stocks particularly in China and low cotton price in India; low profitability in soybean and competition with maize in Paraguay and Uruguay; environmental stress (drought/submergence) in soybean plantings in South Africa, Argentina and Bolivia; negative biotech perception in China as well as onerous reporting requirements in Czech Republic. Lastly, onerous requirements made farmers in Romania stop planting biotech crops in 2016.

Finally, biotech crops are here to stay and will continue benefiting the burgeoning population with new biotech crops and traits to cater to the needs of farmers and consumers alike. However, even after 21 years of successful commercialization of biotech crops, some challenges remain including:

•     First, the regulatory barriers that limit scientific innovation and restricts technology development that would have benefited farmers and consumers.

•     Second, the growing trade disruptions brought by asynchronous approvals and thresholds on low level presence in GM crop trading countries. Following the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, countries allow entry of only approved biotech events, and a threshold for unapproved events. Some countries have stringent or long process of approvals that cause problems if imported products contain unapproved events, especially in a stacked event. The report and analysis by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST, 2016) on the Impact of asynchronous approvals for biotech crops on agricultural sustainability, trade and innovation indicate that there are large volumes of trade worth billions of dollars at risk. A thorough research is needed to evaluate the global cost of asynchronous approvals and low level presence (LLP), the impacts of asynchrony on innovation and crop improvements, and the decision-making process of biotech developers, in both the public and private sectors. Timely research and possibly, an international dialogue on trade would inform policymaking and improve the design of policy instruments.

•     Third, the need for continuous dialogue among all stakeholders for the expeditious understanding and appreciation of biotechnology, emphasizing benefits and safety. Innovative communication modalities using social media and other forms of venues should be tapped and utilized effectively and immediately.

Overcoming these challenges is a daunting task that requires a cooperative partnership among the North and the South, East and West, and public and private sector. Only through partnerships can we be assured that nutritious and sufficient food will be readily available on the table, stable supply of feed for our poultry and livestock, and accessible clothing and shelter for everyone.

Dr. Clive James, founder and emeritus chair of ISAAA, has painstakingly authored the 20 annual reports ensuring the ISAAA Brief to be the most credible source of information on biotech crops in the last two decades. He has been a great advocate of the technology and biotech products following the footsteps of his great mentor and colleague the late Nobel Peace Laureate Norman Borlaug, who was also the founding patron of ISAAA. The 2016 ISAAA Brief continues this tradition of providing an up-to-date report on biotech products through information gathered from an expansive global network of biotechnology information centers and other partners.

For more information, visit ISAAA’s page at

ISAAA Brief 52-2016: Press Release

ISAAA Brief 52-2016: Press Release

Biotech/GM Crops Surge to a New Peak of 185.1 Million Hectares in 2016
Global Area Rebounds from 2015 as Farmers Continue to Adopt Biotech Crops

10674e-green-corn-field-hd-imageBeijing (May 4, 2017) – Today, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) released its annual report showcasing the 110-fold increase in adoption rate of biotech crops globally in just 21 years of commercialization – growing from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 185.1 million hectares in 2016. ISAAA’s report, “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016,” continues to demonstrate the long-standing benefits of biotech crops for farmers in developing and industrialized countries, as well as consumer benefits of recently approved and commercialized varieties.

“Biotech crops have become a vital agricultural resource for farmers around the world because of the immense benefits for improved productivity and profitability, as well as conservation efforts,” said ISAAA Chair of the Board, Paul S. Teng. “With the commercial approvals and plantings of new varieties of biotech potatoes and apples, consumers will begin to enjoy direct benefits of biotechnology with produce that is not likely to spoil or be damaged, which in turn has the potential to substantially reduce food waste and consumer grocery costs.”

Examining other benefits of biotechnology, ISAAA reports that the adoption of biotech crops has reduced CO2 emissions equal to removing approximately 12 million cars from the road annually in recent years; conserved biodiversity by removing 19.4 million hectares of land from agriculture in 2015; and decreased the environmental impact with a 19% reduction in herbicide and insecticide use.1 Additionally, in developing countries, planting biotech crops has helped alleviate hunger by increasing the incomes for 18 million small farmers and their families, bringing improved financial stability to more than 65 million people.

“Biotechnology is one of the tools necessary in helping farmers grow more food on less land,” explained ISAAA Global Coordinator Randy Hautea. “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.”

As more varieties of biotech crops are approved and commercialized for use by farmers, ISAAA expects to see adoption rates continue to climb and to benefit farmers in developing countries. For example, among African nations where regulatory processes have traditionally created barriers to biotech crop adoption rates, advances are being realized. In 2016, South Africa and Sudan increased the planting of biotech maize, soybean and cotton to 2.66 million hectares from 2.29 million hectares in 2015. Elsewhere on the continent, a new wave of acceptance is emerging as Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Swaziland and Uganda make advances in regulatory review and commercial approvals for a variety of biotech crops.

“Even with a long history of regulatory barriers, African farmers continue to adopt biotech crops because of the value they are realizing from the stability and productivity of biotech varieties,” said Hautea. “As more countries move forward with regulatory reviews for crops such as bananas, cowpeas and sorghum, we believe biotech crop plantings will continue to grow in Africa and elsewhere.”

Also in 2016, Brazil increased biotech area of maize, soybean, cotton and canola by a remarkable 11% – maintaining its ranking as the second largest producer of biotech crops after the United States. In Brazil, biotech soybeans account for 32.7 million hectares of the 91.4 million hectares grown worldwide.

For 2016, ISAAA also reports that there were improvements in the commercialization and plantings of biotech fruits and vegetables with direct consumer benefits. These included the commercial approvals of the Innate™ Russet Burbank Gen 2 potatoes that were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for sale in the United States and the Simplot Gen 1 White Russet™ brand potatoes that were approved by Health Canada for fresh market sale in Canada. These biotech potato varieties have lower levels of asparagine, which reduces the creation of acrylamide during high-heat cooking. Additionally, the first commercially saleable quantities of Arctic® Apples were harvested in 2016, stored over the winter and are projected to be sold in U.S. grocery stores in 2017.
Additional highlights from ISAAA’s 2016 report include:

  • Global area rebounded in 2016 with 185.1 million hectares of biotech crops versus 179. 7 million hectares 2015, when global area for all crops was down, and 181.5 million hectares in 2014.
  • In 2016, 26 countries in total, including 19 developing and 7 industrial countries, grew biotech crops. Developing countries grew 54% of biotech crops, compared to 46% for industrial nations.
  • Eight countries in Asia and the Pacific, including China and India, grew 18.6 million hectare of biotech crops in 2016.
  • 10 countries in Latin America, including Paraguay and Uruguay, grew a combined 80 million hectares of biotech crops in 2016.
  • In 2016, the leading countries growing biotech crops continued to be represented by the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India. Combined, these five countries planted 91% of the global biotech crop area.
  • Four countries in Europe — Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic  Slovakia — grew more than 136,000 hectares of biotech maize in 2016, an increase of 17% from 2015, reflecting EU’s need for insect resistant maize.
  • Biotech crops with stacked traits accounted for 41% of global area, second only to herbicide tolerance at 47%.
  • Biotech soybean varieties accounted for 50% of global biotech crop area. Based on global area for individual crops, 78% of soybean, 64% of cotton, 26% of maize and 24% of canola planted in the world were biotech varieties.
  • Countries with over 90% adoption of biotech soybean are U.S.A, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, and Uruguay; close to or over 90% adoption of biotech maize are USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, and Uruguay; over 90% of biotech cotton are USA, Argentina, India, China, Pakistan, South Africa, Mexico, Australia, and Myanmar; and with 90% or more of biotech canola are USA and Canada.

For more information or the executive summary of the report, visit

1Brookes and Barfoot, 2017, Forthcoming

For more information, visit ISAAA’s page at

Radyo Teknolohiya: Interview with Ms. Kristine Grace Natividad-Tome, a biotech communicator (Philippines)

Radyo Teknolohiya: Interview with Ms. Kristine Grace Natividad-Tome, a biotech communicator (Philippines)

Ms. Kristine Grace Natividad-Tome, Program Associate of Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) discusses the knowledge sharing initiatives of ISAAA on all aspects of crop biotechnology for all stakeholders, including consumers, farmers, policy makers, scientists, and the media in Philippines and other developing countries.

Listen to the interview of Radyo ng Bayan with Ms. Tome that was aired in DZRB Radyo ng Bayan, 738 kHZ on 6 January 2017.


African trading bloc ready to embrace transgenic products

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member countries on Wednesday expressed their readiness for the development and importation of genetically modified organism (GMO) products in the region.

Getachew Belay, COMESA Senior Biotechnology Policy Advisor, said the Africa’s largest trading bloc has experts and laboratories for testing GMOs.

“The region has trained scientists and some are currently working in other continents due to lack of developed systems in biotechnology development,” Belay told Xinhua in Nairobi on Wednesday.

He said the 19-member bloc has taken biotechnology seriously by putting down infrastructures as per the recommendations of the Cartagena protocol.

The countries are currently cooperating in creating an enabling environment for external, cross-border and domestic investment, including the joint promotion of research and adaptation of science and technology for development.

Belay said COMESA provides a technical opinion about the biosafety of GMOs seeking commercial status in the COMESA region, which can be used by individual countries to make decisions within their own biosafety regulatory frameworks, and also a harmonized mechanism for decision-making involving commercial planting, trade of GMOs and food aid with GM content in the COMESA region.

He noted that COMESA has helped member states share and build capacity to conduct risk assessment and management. It also established interactive regional information-sharing mechanism on biosafety and biotechnology issues.

Margaret Karembu, Director of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), said whereas several countries are making profits from biotechnology, African countries are still lagging behind due to unpredictable political and policy environment in supporting biotechnology research.

“Costly regulatory processes coupled with miscommunication of the technology are to blame for Africa’s slow uptake of the technology,” she noted.

Sudan is the only country in the region that is currently growing GMO. It has 100,000 acres under such crops since 2012 when the technology was introduced. Currently 97 percent of farmers are growing the GMO variety.

Kenya, Swaziland, Uganda and Malawi are at confined field trial stages for Bt. cotton, Bt. maize, virus-resistant cassava and sweet potatoes, bacterial-wilt-resistant banana and drought-tolerant water-efficient maize.

-Written by Peter Mutai (Xinhua, Nairobi) in  See original article link here.

Radyo Teknolohiya: Interview with Joseph Benemerito, biotech farmer (Philippines)

Radyo Teknolohiya: Interview with Joseph Benemerito, biotech farmer (Philippines)

Joseph Benemerito
, a biotech corn farmer from Alfonso Lista, Ifugao, Philippines, shares his experiences in biotech corn farming and how biotechnology improve his life.  Listen to the interview of Ms. Melly Tenorio, Radio Program Anchor of Radyo Teknolohiya, aired in DZRB Radyo ng Bayan, 738 kHZ on 26 August 2016.


Second GM crop ready for release

Three years after the release of Bt Brinjal, Bangladesh is going to get its second genetically modified (GM) crop — a disease resistant potato — as scientists have sought government approval for its commercial use.

Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, which has developed the blight resistant (RB) potato, applied on December 29 for the commercial release of the crop, Bari Director General Md Rafiqul Islam Mondal told The Daily Star yesterday.

GM crops are the ones whose DNA has been modified, in most cases, by introducing a new trait to the plant, thereby, giving it extra vigour either to resist diseases or withstand stress conditions.

Once released, RB potato will be farmers’ answer to late blight, one of the most devastating plant diseases caused by fungal attack. Farmers in Bangladesh spend up to Tk 100 crore a year in spraying 500 tonnes of fungicide to protect this major tuber crop from late blight.

With an annual output of nine million tonnes, Bangladesh is a potato exporting nation ranking 7th among the top potato-producing countries in the world.

Apart from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Uganda are also working on developing and releasing blight resistant GM potato.

According to the International Potato Center (CIP), potato is the third most important food crop in the world after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption. More than a billion people eat potato, and its worldwide production exceeds 300 million metric tonnes.

Late blight, responsible for the 19th century Irish potato famine that had led to one million deaths from starvation, still affects more than 3 million hectares of potato crops globally and causes economic losses estimated at $2.75 billion a year, according to the CIP, which is helping Uganda develop the GM potato.

Breeders involved in developing the RB potato since 2006 at Bari said the resistant gene was taken from wild potato varieties and was infused into a potato variety called Katahdin in the United States. They said it was crossed with Diamant and Cardinal — two popular potato varieties in Bangladesh.

After years of lab tests, greenhouse and contained field trials across the country, Bari scientists found out that RB potato succeeded in resisting the late blight. Later, they approached the Ministry of Agriculture for regulatory approval, said Md Jahangir Hossain, director of Bari’s Tuber Crops Research Centre (TCRC).

“Right in this season, I’m receiving many phone calls every day from Northern potato growers seeking advice for protecting their produces from blight attacks. Once approved, RB potato will bring them a big respite from the disease,” said Hossain.

He said farmers now have to spray costly fungicides in their fields several times during a cropping season to save their potato from late blight.

Md Abu Kawochar, a scientific officer at the TCRC, had told this correspondent that the final regulatory trials conducted at six sites in the country during the last potato season had shown positive results.

Bari developed the late blight resistant potato in cooperation with the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII), a USAID-funded consortium of public and private sector institutions supporting scientists, regulators, extension workers, farmers and the general public in developing countries to make informed decisions about agricultural biotechnology.

Bari Director General Md Rafiqul Islam Mondal said once the Ministry of Agriculture would forward the approval application to the relevant biosafety regulatory committee, they would verify the matter. Once satisfied, the plea would be sent to the national biosafety body for approval.

He said the regulatory process would take a few more months to end.

RB potato would be the second commercially released GM food crop in South Asia after Bt Brinjal, which was also released by Bangladesh in 2013.

Empowered with a crystal protein gene (Cry1Ac) taken from soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, Bt Brinjal is resistant to Fruit and Shoot Borer (FSB), the deadliest brinjal pest.

After its release, Bari supplied Bt Brinjal plants to a limited number of farmers in 2014 and 2015. But since late 2016, the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) has been going for the crop’s large scale production across the country.

“Success with Bt Brinjal has led Bangladesh to prioritise the field testing of a new late blight resistant potato [an important crop occupying 0.5 million hectares of land in Bangladesh] which could be approved as early as 2017,” stated the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), in its latest report titled “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech”.

ISAAA, a non-profit international organisation having three centres in New York (USA), Nairobi (Kenya), and Los Baños (the Philippines), keeps watch on production and expansion of biotech crops worldwide.

ISAAA recorded a 100-fold increase in global biotech acreage in just 20 years (from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 179.7 million hectares in 2015) making biotechnology the fastest adopted crop technology in recent times and reflecting farmer satisfaction with biotech crops.

-Written by Reaz Ahmad in The Daily Star.  See article link here.

Bt corn mainstreamed

Photo shows a comparison of Bt and non-Bt corn. The lower corn shows an ear attacked by the Asian corn borer. (ISAAA)


THE heavily-maligned Genetically Modified (GM) crop, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn, is actually mainstreamed now with corn growers using this in scales bigger than any other corn variety.

Having corn as the second to the most important crop in the country next to rice, Philippines pioneered the planting of Bt corn in Asia. The crop’s commercial propagation was allowed in late December 2002.

Since then, the area planted to biotech maize in the country has reached a total of 702,000 hectares (has) involving over 400,000 farming families.

The total area devoted to Bt corn is some 70 percent of the total harvest corn area in the country at 1.04 million hectares in 2015, according to the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA).

“Adoption rate of biotech maize in 2015 is at 63 percent. In the period 2003 to 2015, there were 13 years of consecutive growth in hectarage of Bt corn, except for 2015 due to drought,” Dr. Randy A. Hautea, global coordinator and Southeast Asia director of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (Isaaa), said during the recently-concluded three-day training-writeshop on Engaging Regional media for science-based reporting on Modern Agricultural Technologies last July 27 at University of the Philippines Los Baños-Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) Residences.

Highest hectarage of Bt corn recorded is at 831,000 hectares in 2014.

He added that the year-by-year upward trajectory in adoption of biotech maize “reflects the significant and consistent benefits generated by biotech maize to farmers here.”

“About 65 percent of the total yellow corn of the country is actually GM, the 350,000 to 400,000 farming families are now directly dependent on GM corn production,” he said.

The corn producing areas in the country are Isabela, the rest of Cagayan Valley, South and North Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat, among others. Davao City is also producing corn but only minimal.

On an average, one farming family has a corn holding of two to two and a half hectares.

Bt Corn
Bt corn in the Philippines was engineered to be specifically resistant to the Asiatic Corn Borer (ACB), Ostrinia furnacalis (Guenee), the most devastating corn pests in the industry.

It was introduced as a “practical and ecologically sustainable solution” for poor corn farmers, a major bullet to combat poverty and improve livelihood.

Hautea said that application of insecticide to corn can control but not effective and 100 percent guaranteed.

“The only control, which is not that effective, is the application of heavy pesticide and that is not 100 percent effective because if the borer entered the corn plant’s surface, it can’t be reached by the insecticide but a Bt corn protects the plant itself,” he said.

Better yield and income
In a research entitled “Adoption and uptake pathways of Biotech crops commissioned by International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA),” Dr. Cleofe S. Torres of the UPLB-College of Development Communication said that farmers’ income tripled with Bt corn as compared to traditional corn.

The study has over 400 respondents from across the country.

Higher income leads the top reasons and considered facilitating factors for continued adoption of GM crop, followed by pest resistance, good grain quality, available financing, lesser production cost, and availability of seeds.

“We went to the communities where 95 percent are corn farmers. Generally the findings tell us that indeed the farmers benefited in terms of income. Their income actually tripled and they are now not in debt to anybody because they can readily pay immediately after harvest,” she said in a separate interview.

For instance, Torres cited that one farmer who is earning just P10,000 per hectare per harvest with the non-GM corn, now they are having an income of P30,000 per hectare per harvest.

One farming family, on an average has 2.5 hectares of corn field. In a year, corn farmers are harvesting twice or thrice a year.

Hautea, for his part, said that the high retention rate of farmers growing Bt corn is a clear and best measure of acceptability of the Filipino farmers.

In the same research, it was noted that problems encountered by biotech corn farmers include the occurrence of fungal/bacterial diseases and other pests (31.8 percent); expired seeds that did not germinate (19.8 percent); high cost of inputs (16.1 percent); low buying price of traders (8.1 percent); and lack of own capital (6.8 percent).

Biotechnology is but the road toward food and nutrition security, said Hautea, emphasizing that biotechnology can be the door in achieving the Department of Agriculture’s (DA’s) target of making food available and affordable to the Filipinos.

“Biotechnology can be part of the solution, it can contribute,” he said.

Proving his assertion, Hautea cited the commercialization of the Bt corn in the Philippines which he said, has paved way for the conversion of the then corn import-dependent to a corn export-oriented country.

“To date, we are not importing corn for the past two years,” he said, adding that the country managed to be self-sufficient in corn.

But he was clear that Biotech, just like any technology, will not be a sole technology savior.

Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary, Emmanuel Piñol, when asked in a separate interview about his direction as far as biotechnology is concerned, was quick to say that he is open to any development with GM for as long as same vision will be shared.

“No problem. We meet with anybody. I am open to talk to biotechnology,” Piñol said.

But he underscored that he is not that keen about this, as he has yet to learn and deeply understand Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), as he believes organic farming is still the way.

“I am not keen, I don’t know, as of the moment, let it come but you know ignorante pa ako sa GMO (I am still ignorant about GMO),” he said.

Hautea also said that biotechnology has to be used where it is advantageous.

“You really have to use it where it is advantageous like the Bt corn, that is the only controlled method for the corn borer except insecticide. So you have to use it to the best agronomy, cultural, soil, water management and best market matching,” he said.

“With the rallying mandate of the President (Rodrigo Duterte) which is to provide available and affordable food to every Filipinos, so anything that can contribute in achieving this, I think that is how we should put the role of biotechnology or any technology like irrigation, soil analysis, organic, etc.” Hautea added.

–Written by Ace June Rell S. Perez, Sun Star Davao.  See article link here