Technology developers from the public and private research institutions, regulators from the various government Departments, national scientists and academicians, and media personnel all gathered at the Hotel Jen in Manila on 25 March 2015 for the “Science Information Forum on GM Crops in the Philippines: Impact and Prospects”.
The Forum, organized by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), aimed to (a) evaluate the impact of the GM corn technology on Philippine agriculture; and (b) discuss the factors that affect the development, testing and commercialization of Pinoy GM products. Dr. Dolores A. Ramirez, National Scientist and Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños gave the Welcome Remarks in behalf of NAST President Dr. William G. Padolina. Dr. Ramirez provided a chronology of the events that transpired and the regulatory process by which the Bt corn was subjected to prior to its commercialization. She also posed the question on why no other crop has been approved subsequent to biotech corn. According to her, adequate data has been provided in support of the technology but it seems that science alone is not enough to popularize the technology. She stressed that the Forum shall serve as a venue for the scientists to provide the necessary information and updates on the GM products currently being developed and come up with recommendations that will guide the concerned authorities in crafting pertinent laws and issuances, as necessary.
Dr. Leonardo A. Gonzales, President of STRIVE Foundation and Community Representative of the DOST Biosafety Committee presented a socio-economic analysis on the impacts of GM corn in the Philippines over a ten-year period (2003-2011). His two-year study indicated that biotech corn had higher advantage over ordinary hybrid corn with regard to macro-effects, micro-economic farm level impacts (i.e. yield, income, economic carrying capacity and return of investment) and environmental impacts (i.e. resource use ratio, fertilizer efficiency, labor use efficiency, pesticide use efficiency). His study also gave recommendations on how to improve the biotech corn industry in the country namely (i) create a multi-disciplinary team of independent monitors to evaluate the socio-economic, environmental and macro-impacts of GM corn; (ii) establish strategic alliances for hard infrastructure enhancement of public research; (iii) fast track adoption of GM corn technology to enhance global competitiveness; (iv) develop strategic linkages in GM corn communities with livestock poultry production areas; and (v) advocate quality standards for corn.
The next three presentations provided an overview and updates on the locally developed agricultural crops or what we call "Pinoy GM crops" in the pipeline. Dr. Antonio A. Alfonso, Chief Science Research Specialist of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and Director, Biotechnology Program of the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Evelyn Mae Tecson Mendoza, NAST Academician, and Dr. Lourdes D. Taylo, University Researcher at the Institute of Plant Breeding in UP Los Baños, reported on the developments in the golden rice, delayed ripening and PRSV-resistant papaya, and Bt eggplant projects respectively. These were followed by the presentations of Dr. Violeta N. Villegas (Senior Scientist, International Rice Research Institute) and Mr. Simeon A. Cuyson (Executive Director, Crop Life Philippines) on the GM crops that may be accessed by the Philippines from other countries, most of which have been developed by the private sector R&D, i.e, Innate potato which has lower acrylamide level and resists bruising, Arctic apple which does not turn brown from oxidation, and drought-tolerant sugarcane.
Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr., former Executive Director of PhilRice, read the commentary entitled “Are We Going to Just Watch the World Go By?” in behalf of Academician Emil Q. Javier. The commentary delved on the developments in the field of modern biotechnology both locally and at the global realm with focus on the events in relation to the ongoing Bt eggplant court case in the country.
Academician Ruben L. Villareal served as the moderator during the open forum that followed while Dr. Benigno D. Peczon, President of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines gave the synthesis and closing. Dr. Peczon thanked everyone for their presence and commended NAST for organizing the Forum. However, he also highlighted the importance of addressing the right audience and reaching out to the appropriate people in order to create awareness and further advance the utilization of biotech crop in the country.