PHL eyes working with US, ASEAN on genetically modified crops
PHL, ASEAN diplomats visit Chesapeake farm . PHL Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. (9th, left) and members of the Philippine Embassy join ASEAN diplomats in the agriculture and food security conference and farm visit organized by the Department of State, the Department of Agriculture and DuPont at DuPont’s Chesapeake Farm in Maryland on Oct. 16. GMA News/HO
The Philippines is open to collaborating with the United States and members of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), to share its experience on how biotechnology allowed Filipino farmers to improve their productivity, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday.
In his remarks during the agriculture and food security conference for the ASEAN diplomatic community in Washington DC, Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. said the Philippines is willing to share the knowledge and experience it has obtained in the 10 years it has implemented its science-based regulatory system for products of modern biotechnology and also learn from the experiences of the US and ASEAN.
The Philippines is considered a leader in biotechnology in Southeast Asia, being the first country in the region to have a regulatory system for biotech products in place and the first to grow a major biotech crop for food, feed and processing – Bt corn – that was approved for commercial production in 2002.
“To date, biotechnology is contributing towards increased farmers’ incomes and food security,” Cuisia said, citing the increase not only in land area devoted to Bt corn production – from 11,000 hectares in 2003 to 685,000 hectares in 2011 – but also in the number of farmers from 10,000 in 2003 to 300,000 in 2011.
The conference, attended by Philippine embassy officials, was organized by the US Department of State and Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American chemical manufacturer E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) as a forum for participants to gather and exchange information on the role of agricultural biotechnology in achieving sustainable agriculture production.
“The Philippine Government policy is to promote the safe and responsible use of modern biotechnology as one of the means to achieve food security, equal access to health services, a sustainable and safe environment and industry development,” Dr. Josyline C. Javelosa, Philippine Agriculture attaché, told US and ASEAN diplomats during a panel discussion at the DuPont Chesapeake Farms in Maryland, last Oct. 16.
“This enabled Filipino farmers to increase their incomes and adopt sustainable agricultural practices,” Javelosa said, citing results of a study that showed Bt corn farmers earned 38 percent more than other corn farmers. The additional value of Bt corn to corn productivity is estimated between $100 million to $400 million.
Others in the panel discussion on “Food Security, Agriculture Technology and the Role of Government” were Jack Bobo, senior advisor for Biotechnology from the State Department; Dr. Pace Lubinsky, USDA Science advisor; Dr. Judy Chambers, director, Program on Biosafety Systems of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research; Dr. John Duesing, senior director for Regulatory Science Support and Operations of DuPont Pioneer. The panel was moderated by Max Holtzman, USDA senior advisor.
In the discussions, Cuisia sought the comments of panel members on the warning by Greenpeace that the Philippine government’s approval
of genetically modified crops will lead to a food crisis because inputs for crops are dependent on supplies controlled by giant agrochemical corporations.
In response, the panel members said farmers are intelligent and would adopt a technology with economics as the driver. According to them, genetically modified crops like Bt corn require less insecticide. Panel members also agreed on the need to address public misperceptions about biotechnology by coming out with the best messages on its safety and benefits.
Javelosa said the Philippines is not considering biotechnology as the only approach to improve farm productivity and sustainability but is only one of several options it would like farmers to have access to. The Philippines is also very active in promoting organic agriculture.
The daylong event included field tours at the 3,300-acre DuPont facility in Chestertown, Maryland, that gave participants an opportunity to see biotech crops in the field, observe harvest activities, and listen to briefings by farmers and researchers.
The program was opened by DuPont vice president Jim Borel and USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Darci Vetter. This was followed by a presentation about DuPont and DuPont Pioneer in ASEAN by DuPont director for International Government Affairs Geoff Gambles. — VS, GMA News
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