NAGA CITY   –   To address the  problem of  providing food to a rapidly growing population,  the  scientific  communities  worldwide including the Philippines are  advocating a balanced, safe  and sustainable approach  using the best conventional  crop technology and the best of biotechnology to achieve sustainable food production.  Biotechnology is a modern technology that makes use of organisms (or parts thereof) to make or modify products; improve and develop microorganisms, plants or animals; or develop organisms for specific purposes in a more precise manner.

The Biotechnology Program Office (BPO) of the Department of Agriculture   is thus, intensifying its advocacy and information dissemination campaign on Biotechnology and promoting the Healthier Rice Project across the country.  It has recently partnered with the DA Bicol Regional Office to impart the necessary knowledge and deepen appreciation about Biotechnology among the program/project implementers of agricultural programs on the ground and the farmer themselves.

DA- Bicol OIC Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla in his welcome message expressed his support and appreciation to the initiative of the BPO to launch an information dissemination campaign about the various initiatives of the government on Biotechnology which are intended to help achieve food security and food sufficiency. He related the uprooting incident of the field trials on Golden Rice in 2013 right inside the DA compound which he said is an indication of the opposition of some group to that project. He underscored that the challenge is how to make Biotechnology products and methods acceptable to most Filipinos.  He assured of DA Bicol’s continuous support to the Biotech programs and projects.

Over 80 municipal agriculturists, extension workers, farmer leaders, and DA staff attended the 2-day seminar on Biotech in one of the hotels in this city. High caliber experts and speakers came all the way from Manila to discuss various topics on Biotechnology, impart their knowledge and experiences on the subject matter and to dispel misinformation, myths and false claims about biotechnology.

One of the speakers was Dr. Nina G. Gloriani, Consultant, Clinical Microbiology Section, Institute of Pathology, St. Luke’s Medical Center who gave the overview on Biotechnology.  Another speaker was Dr. Peter M. Magdaraog, who is also a member of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Biotechnology Technical Advisory Group.  He discussed the Philippine Regulatory System for Genetically Modified Crops: the DOST-DA-DENR-DOH-DILG Joint Department Circular No.01, series of 2016.  Dr. Lourdes D. Taylo, university researcher from the UP Los Baños – Institute of Plant Breeding presented updates on the Bt Eggplant Project.  Marcellas Y. Barrogo, Project Development Officer IV of the BPO discussed the DA Biotech Program’s Initiatives and Projects.

On the second day Dr. Reynante L. Ordonio, of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) discussed the Healthier Rice Project of which he is the project leader.  

To cap the gathering a  Gawad Saka Awardee (2013) and a very successful  farmer who came all the way from Nueva Ecija,  Juanito Rama  shared his success story  as adopter of Genetically Modified Technology.  As rice and corn farmer he shared how he had increased his yield and income and reduced his production cost by using BT corn which no longer required spraying of chemicals.  He shared his good practices and how his success has also had its impact on the other farmers in his community. 

The activity was facilitated by Rev. Fr. Emmanuel N. Alparce, the Information, Education and Communication (IEC) Technical Committee chair of the DA -BPO.  He also shared his journey as priest  from Tabaco City who was forced to go on leave to tend to an ailing father (who eventually  passed away) and experienced mild  depression over his loss  and  how he found  and responded to a new mission or calling to help   feed the hungry  by helping the scientific community  and the government  in advocating  safe, affordable and sustainable food for every Filipino especially the  poor.  (Emily B. Bordado.)