BusinessWorld (Philippines)
By Neil Jerome C. Morales
July 30, 2009

LABORATORIES, demonstration farms and farm testing centers may hold the key to attaining food security in the country.

Manila, Philippines — In a speech during the Food Industry Summit in Makati yesterday, Emil Q. Javier, president of the National Academy of Science and Technology, said that biotechnology is an essential tool that can help the government and private sectors clinch food security.

"Biotechnology can increase yield, reduce losses and improve quality of crops. [It] has the potential to increase food supply, and make food more accessible and affordable," Mr. Javier said.

Biotechnology is defined as any biology-based technology that uses microorganisms or their parts to make or modify products or improve plants, animals and microorganisms.

"The beauty of modern genetics is precisely that you can manipulate genes," he said.

Since the approval of biotechnology crops in 2003, the country has approved four genetically modified crops for commercial use, all of which are corn.

Last year, the Philippines ranked sixth in the number of total approval of biotechnology applications at 47.

In a study presented by Mr. Javier, he said farmers that used Bacillus thuringiensis (bt) corn, a crop developed through genetic modification, reported P7,482 in extra income per hectare compared with non-biotech corn farmers in the dry season. During the wet season, biotech corn farmers earned an extra P7,080 per hectare.

About 200,000 farmers have benefited from the bt corn, which has higher yields and is not prone to pests like corn borers, Mr. Javier said.

"The problem with biotechnology are the legal and financial aspects of commercialization, and that is when the private sector comes in," Mr. Javier said.

"Indeed the potential of biotechnology to ensure food security is robust," Leonardo A. Gonzales, president of agribusiness policy research group Sikap-Strive Foundation, said in an interview on the sidelines of the same forum.

"But the environmental policy should be friendly on biotechnology meaning the private sector and the government should invest [on research and development]," Mr. Gonzales added.


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