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In connection with the ongoing global discussion on the regulation of New Breeding Techniques (NBT, the Department of Agriculture, Biotech Program Office (DABPO) is spearheading a series of presentations of findings of the study group commissioned to review the developments in plant breeding innovations in foreign countries, including trade partners of the Philippines, as well as its research and development prospects in the Philippines.

The presentation of initial findings of the study on NBT was conducted last 27 February and 27 March 2018, respectively at the DA, New Building, Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City.

 Dr. Reynante Ordonio, of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) presented the state of NBT Research and Development where he provided techniques utilized in the global R&D landscape, including the purpose of the methods, presence (or absence) of transgenic intermediate stage, characteristics of final product, possible classification (either transgenic or non-transgenic) and detection methods of the final product. 

Atty. Edmund Jason Baranda of Baranda & Associates, discussed the international regulatory landscape, policy developments and proposed regulatory framework for NBT in a number of countries, among them were Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Japan, Chile, Colombia and Israel.

  • Argentina, the first country to develop a functional regulatory system for the approval of NBT products.
  • Brazil, has NBT regulations wherein crops developed through NBT are exempt from regulation when there is no insertion of transgenes like the Argentina.
  • Australia, stipulates that gene editing will not be considered as genetic modification. Currently, it is undergoing consultation and will need to signed Commonwealth and state governments before it can be passed in federal parliament.
  • Japan’s regulations, by default, does not regard products from NBT’s as GM unless proven otherwise. If there are no transgenes in a final product, the product is considered to be non-GM.
  • Chile, The Agricultural and Livestock Services (SAG), also assess the materials for propagation on a case-by-case basis to identify whether it is within or out of the scope of Resolution No. 1523 of 2001. SAG shall evaluate the background information presented on the technique and verify if the propagation material possesses a new combination of genetic material.
  • Columbia, in their proposed procedure, delineates that a cultivar that made use of innovation techniques in breeding through modern biotechnology in any of its stages and lacks foreign genetic material in the final product will not be considered an LMO.
  • Israel, as determined by the National Committee for Transgenic Plants, products of NBT will not be considered transgenic plants if it is proven that there was no insertion and/or incorporation of forein DNA into the genome of the plant, despite undergoing “targeted mutagenesis”.

Atty. Paz J. Benavidez II, Independent Policy, Institutional, Legislative & Legal Consultant on Environment & Natural Resources Agriculture, Agrarian Reform and Local Government, focused on the definition of “Biosafety” as stated in the EO 514, Annex A. She emphasized the Philippine Legal Framework on Biosafety (for Plants), CAC resolution, EO 514 (2006), JDC 1, s. 2016, FPA MC 10, s. 2017, Guidelines on Planned Release of Genetically Modified Organisms, and the Philippine Biosafety Guidelines for Contained Use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and other international instruments such as the Cartagena Protocol to the CBD.

Dr. Ruben L. Villareal, President, Philippine Agriculture Resources Research Foundation, Inc., emphasized that the determinants of R&D capability are manpower, tools and equipment, specialized laboratories, and funds. For researchers to be able to venture into NBT, they need to have a strong basic knowledge on Plant Breeding, Genetics, Genomics, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Mathematics/Bioinformatics as well as training on specialized laboratories. His presentation focused on their findings on the capacity of some public sector Institutions to undertake R&D on NBT and regulate NBT and their products.

On its third presentations last 26 April 2018, the NBT study group presented the initial policy recommendations on NBT. The initial presentation focused on the NBT, its novel combination, and recommended policy. It was initially suggested that some of the tools on NBT that needs to be regulated should be reviewed by the DOST-BC.

Furthermore, Director Vivencio R. Mamaril, Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Biotechnology Program-Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program, emphasized that the final policy recommendation of the study group will be forwarded to National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) for review and adoption.

The last presentation for the final policy recommendations on NBT will be held on 19 June 2018 at Department of Agriculture (new) Bldg., Elliptical Road, Quezon City.

The Department of Science and Technology Biosafety Committee (DOST-BC) is the regulatory body of Philippines which oversees the implementation of biosafety policies, measure, guidelines and decision for contained and confined used trial of GMOs, referred to as “living modified organism” under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and refers to any living organism that possess a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology to make them capable of producing new substance or perform new function. In the absence of the approaches for new plant breeding techniques, DOST-BC will continue its rigorous implementations on the biosafety policies and guidelines in the Philippines, gene-editing activities that are considered process-based shall remain under the regulatory purview of DOST-BC.