An international agricultural company urged Filipino farmers on Wednesday to further employ biotechnology in food production, citing that the Philippines as the pioneer Southeast Asian country to initiate a biotechnology regulatory system.
Monsanto Company, a publicly traded US multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology firm, said the Philippines ranked 12th worldwide in biotechnology crop commercialization in 2016.
“We believe that there’s no silver bullet for food technology,” said Charina Garrido Ocampo, corporate affairs head of Monsanto Philippines, in a joint media forum on Wednesday.
Genetically modified (GM) or engineered organisms are created when a gene from one species is transferred to another to resist pests and herbicides, and enhance the plant’s nutritional value.
GM corn commonly known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) Corn is one of the agricultural company’s direct-to-consumer products that are highly promoted among farmers across the country.
Ocampo added Bt corn has “zero or less pesticide use” and “better and more uniform quality” compared to ordinary corn. However, despite its growing appeal to farmers, there are still existing challenges that hinder the adoption of what she calls the “best-performing technology in the industry.”
Monsanto agrees to the idea that not all biotechnology firms guarantee genetically engineered products that are safe and free from toxic contamination.
Also, according to Ocampo, there are existing local bans on GM crops because of the government’s support for organic farming and anti-biotechnology campaigns.
Despite the ongoing concerns on using high-yielding GM varieties, the Philippines is currently part of the 18 “mega countries” with land area of at least 50,000 hectares devoted to biotech crop cultivation.
“Besides, there is no record that someone got sick because of GM crops,” she said.
Monsanto also addresses the Philippines’ need for continuous education, information, and institutional strengthening at national and local levels, apart from multi-stakeholder partnerships to strengthen the future of biotechnology in the country.
“We all want sustainable crops that are safe. We will continue to coordinate with local government and leading scientists who believe in food security in the country,” Ocampo said.