TO achieve a resilient and progressive food system, experts in agriculture biotechnology are calling for stronger policy support that will also further promote the development of bio-based industries.

The experts' call was expressed in a recently held webinar series during the celebration of the 17th National Biotechnology Week led by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) with the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Biotechnology Program Office.

Dr. Segfredo Serrano, former DA undersecretary for policy and planning, noted that from a policy standpoint, having a resilient food system remains a challenge amid population growth and declining resources for food and agriculture.

He said that along with food security, food safety as well as nutritional security should also be among the top priorities and further emphasized that modern biotechnology is not a silver bullet but rather a powerful and potentially greener option.

Serrano said technologies such as genetic modification, CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) and new breeding techniques offer greater efficiency and precision at either suppression, enhancement, deletion or insertion of target traits, which improves product safety.

For these technologies to thrive in the Philippines, Serrano said there needs to be a robust set of policies and laws that promote its advancement in terms of research and development (R&D), technology development and commercialization. More importantly, the country's regulatory system should be strengthened.

"The system should not be reactive and the regulators should be two steps ahead of the technology that is being introduced in the ground," Serrano pointed out.

According to Dr. Glenn Gregorio, Searca director, biotechnology is an empowering driver of well-directed change to meet human needs.

"These technologies keep food production in phase with modern demands. We must outsmart climate change, create healthier food and fast track the delivery of agricultural products," Gregorio said.

Dr. Benigno Peczon, president of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines Inc., called on policymakers to augment the budget of the Agriculture department and the Department of Science and Technology to keep pace with other countries.