PH leads in use of biotechnology, say experts

By: Ronnel W. Domingo, July 1st, 2013 08:20 PM

International agricultural experts cited the Philippines for being a leader in the promotion of biotechnology in food production as well as for making the list of 18 so-called “mega-countries” that grow genetically modified (GM) or transgenic crops.

These statements were raised Monday at a forum held at the US Embassy in Manila.

According to not-for-profit organization International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, the Philippines is 12th out of 28 countries in 2012 that grew GM crops.

The top five GM crop growing countries are the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India.

The Philippines also made it to the list of 18 mega countries or those with land area of at least 50,000 hectares of biotech crop cultivation.

“GM is the most rapidly adopted technology in the world and the Philippines is at the forefront of (testing and promoting) this,” said Peter J. Davies, international professor of plant biology at Cornell University in New York, who joined the forum via videoconferencing.

Davies also downplayed concerns that biotech crops are harmful and not fit for consumption.

A fact sheet issued by the US Department of Agriculture said that “the benefits of biotech corn to Filipino farmer’s livelihood, income and health have been well documented.”

According to the USDA, adoption of transgenic corn among Filipino growers has reached a record 375,000 farmers in 2012.

“The Philippines is a leader in international biotech research,” the USDA said. “Its robust and thorough regulatory system has been praised as a model for other countries.”

Reynaldo V. Ebora, director of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, cited various studies that say the cultivation of biotech crops could mean an additional income of up to P10,132 per hectare or an improvement of up to 75 percent.

Even then, the Court of Appeals has stopped field trials on GM corn—the so-called Bt (for Bacillus thuringiensis) corn.

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