Crop Biotech Update

Bohol Governor Invites Biotech Experts to Showcase GM Crop Benefits to Farmers

June 29, 2022

During ISAAA's latest webinar, Bohol Governor Aries Aumentado expressed his interest in having biotech experts talk more about the benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops and how they can be planted to co-exist with organic plants in areas such as Bohol and Negros Occidental where organic farming is championed. Providing insights to Filipino farmers about co-existing GM and organic farming will help them learn more about the options that they can use in agriculture.

The webinar Philippine Biosafety Systems, Organic Agriculture and Co-Existence was held on June 28, 2022, via Zoom and co-organized by ISAAA Inc., the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Winrock International through the Building Safe Agricultural Food Enterprise (B-SAFE) Project. The event aimed to provide an overview of the Philippine biosafety systems and how Golden Rice and Bt eggplant went through the process of biosafety approval, as well as discuss the Philippine Organic Act and its implication on GM and the practice of co-existence.

Dr. Rhodora Romero-Aldemita, Executive Director of ISAAA Inc., moderated the event while Mr. Ryan Bedford, Agricultural Attaché of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service gave the opening remarks and a brief overview of the topics and resource speakers. This was followed by a message from Gov. Aumentado read by his representative Mr. Marcos Dioso Jr., which emphasized how the Philippines continues to be a leader in Southeast Asia. The message also gave insights on the importance of the benefits of the Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant to Filipino farmers, as these GM crops exhibit how the Philippines is paving the way for the safe use of GM technology. More importantly, the governor acknowledged that there is more work to be done to eradicate false information about biotechnology. As Bohol is one of the non-adoptive biotech provinces, Gov. Aumentado invited the organizers to showcase biotech to the farmers and residents of the area so that the community leaders and beneficiaries can decide about the benefits of the technology for themselves, as well as to understand how GM and organic crop farming can co-exist.

After the message, Ms. Ma. Lorelie U. Agbagala, Assistant Scientists at the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Head Secretariat of the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines and the DOST Biosafety Committee, talked about managing ecosystems and health risks through the Philippine Biosafety System with emphasis on the safety and nutritional benefits of Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant. The talk discussed the Philippine Biosafety Regulatory Framework, the activities that need regulatory approvals, the current guidance on risk assessment, and the case studies of the Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant.

The second speaker was Dr. Saturnina Halos, President and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Biotech Coalition of the Philippines. She discussed organic farming and co-existence with GMOs and applications of GM technology in Bohol and Negros Occidental, the two provinces that do not allow the cultivation of GM crops in their areas. Dr. Halos highlighted the organic agriculture policies, the GM crop policies, and then compared the two policies when practiced by farmers. This was followed by the identification of the GM crops developed in the country, and how organic agriculture and GMOs can co-exist in the Philippine setting.

After the presentations, Dr. Aldemita led the open forum for the participants to ask questions to the speakers. The webinar concluded with the closing remarks from Dr. Claro Mingala, Director of the Department of Agriculture Biotech Program Office.

The webinar is the second part of a four-part webinar series with a special focus on topics about modern agri-biotechnology applications and products in the Philippine context. Watch out for the third and fourth parts of the series by subscribing to the Crop Biotech Update.

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