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Global trends in breeding biotechnologies and regulatory approaches offer opportunities to lower farming costs, increase productivity, and ensure food safety and security.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) Biotechnology Program, in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Foreign Agricultural Service in Manila, stressed these points during the Seminar on Global Trends in Breeding Biotechnologies and Regulatory Approaches on September 11, 2019.

“The introduction and adoption of GM corn technology in the Philippines is perhaps the single most important technological development that saved the country’s poultry and swine industries from the heavily subsidized foreign competition,” said Dr. Segfredo R. Serrano, former DA Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, Project Development and R&D, during his talk on Modern Biotechnology, Science, and Philippine Agriculture.

After discussing the regulatory system for modern biotechnology in the Philippines and the challenges that hinder its application in the country, Dr. Serrano also cautioned the public to get out of the climate of fear and embrace science instead.

Dr. Carl Ramage, Rautaki Solutions Managing Director, agreed with Dr. Serrano and further discussed the environmental and socio-economic benefits of modern biotechnologies. He expound what genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are and explained the new gene technology technique called gene editing that is a precision breeding tool.

Dr. Ramage added that modern biotechnologies could potentially address the threats of African Swine Fever and Fall Armyworm affecting the domestic agriculture sector.

The DA-Biotech Program seminar is a build-up activity for the celebration of 2019 National Biotechnology Week to be held on November 25–29, 2019. 

### (Gumamela Celes Bejarin, DA-AFID)

At the recent 13th National Biotechnology Week (NBW) celebration, where I was awarded as one of seven Filipino Faces of Biotechnology, I spoke about the Philippines’ demographic “sweet spot,” which began in 2015 and would run until 2053. This is the demographic state where the size of a country’s working-age population is relatively larger than its dependents (or those who are too young or too old to work). At this point, a country holds immense potential to achieve breakthrough growth through greater productivity, higher savings rate, and increased creativity.

As we are bombarded by scare tactics against plants with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn and Bt eggplant, we do not realize that almost everything we eat, many of the medicines we take, the cotton-based apparel we wear, the detergents we use in washing clothes and many of the beverages and processed canned goods we take are already genetically modified (GM).

Professor Saturnina C. Halos revealed this in a news conference at Ka Tunying’s Café in celebration of the 13th National Bio-Technology Week from November 20 to 24 with the theme “Safety Food Products Derived from Modern Biotechnology,” and organized by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Philippine Rice Research Institute and the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines.

I was unable to talk to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol on the joint Golden Rice (GR) project of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) on those occasions I was in Metro Manila earlier this quarter of the year.

To put this matter into perspective, I have been writing a series of articles last October, this year, about Golden Rice, with information inputs from Dr. Roel Suralta, team leader of the GR Project at Philrice.

The fact that science news now appears in newspapers shows that people appreciate the value of science in society today. This is a breakthrough from the old notion that the affairs of science are exclusive to scientists, the academe, and those who study science.

Although science news are yet to headline newspapers on a regular basis, stories about the environment, space technology, plants and animals, and medicine now enjoy their own section in broadsheets. This advent in journalism demands journalists to not just chase after and report science stories but to do so in a laymanized, accurate, and interesting manner. For this, the Department of Science and Technology-Science and Technology Information Institute (DOSTSTII) organized a writeshop for students, particularly on how to write creative and engaging biotechnology stories.

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