• JFC backs biotech crop trials

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    The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) has pressed government to continue the development of genetically modified (GM) crops amid a ban on Bt eggplant field trials, as GM foods are an answer to food shortage and malnutrition.

    Globally, agricultural biotechnology, particularly GM crop technology, has been accepted as a means to ensure food security.

    “It has gained much acceptance in adoption. Biotech crop area increased by an unprecedented 100-fold, from 1.7 million hectares in 1996, to 170 million hectares in 2012. While 28 countries planted biotech crops in 2012, an additional 31 countries have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crops for import, food and feed use since 1996,” said the JFC.

    A writ of kalikasan issued by the Court of Appeals (CA) against Bt eggplant’s development is contrary to the aim to raise food security, the JFC said.

    “Biotechnology offers sustainable and cost-efficient solutions to attain long-term food security and better nutrition. The JFC believes the CA decision against the Bt eggplant is a major setback to the advancement of research and development, particularly modern biotechnology, critical in addressing hunger, better nutrition and access to food,” said the JFC.

    The writ of kalikasan was created to protect the environment from activities that destroy it. But Bt eggplant’s research is under strict government monitoring.

    “The writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy to pursue cases that involve possible damage to the environment. The Bt eggplant is undergoing research for commercial use by the Philippine scientific community under strict monitoring and supervision of proper government regulatory agencies,” said JFC.

    “The decision undermines the Philippines’ leading role and regional competitiveness in biotechnology in Asia, possibly discouraging needed domestic and foreign investments in agriculture,” it said.

    The Philippines is leading globally in agriculture biotechnology with the development by Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) of the GM Vitamin A-enhanced Golden Rice.

    “Another very important Pinoy biotech is the Golden Rice, a biofortified rice being developed by the. Its main purpose is to address vitamin A deficiency especially affecting women and children, and which is the primary cause for malnutrition, blindness, impaired immunity and mortality,” said JFC.

    Golden Rice’s experimental planting was disrupted last August when a mob uprooted the rice plants that are undergoing experiment in a Department of Agriculture experimental station in Pili, Camarines Sur.

    Philrice and IRRI declared that Golden Rice is being developed not for commercial purpose, but for humanitarian aims. Golden Rice seeds will be distributed to farmers in the form of inbreds. These are seeds that may be used repeatedly by farmers. It will be available through a high-yielding Philippine rice variety PSB Rc 82 which gives a yield of around five metric tons per hectare.

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