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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.

In a forum organized by the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) system, local scientists promoted biotechnology as an exciting and promising career choice among students by imparting their insights on its beneficial impact to Philippine society.

Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvaña, director of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology-National Institutes of Health of the University of the Philippines Manila, shared that genuine interest can entice a young mind to embrace biotechnology as an auspicious career path to take.“Doctors can be scientists as well. It is a longer path but, for me, it’s still a good path,” he said.


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