Study to aid post-commercialization monitoring of Bt corn

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Activities, News | 0 comments










14 May 2015


A UPLB study conducts screening of Bt resistance allele in Bt corn sentinel sites to gather baseline information for monitoring possible development of ACB resistance to Bt corn. This will potentially enable efforts to counter possible impending resistance; thereby, prolonging the usefulness of the Bt technology and all the benefits in terms of yield and farmer income along with it.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, 18 million farmers in 28 countries planted 181.5 million hectares of biotech crops, including Bt corn, in 2014. In the Philippines, Bt corn with herbicide tolerance is planted to over 600,000 hectares as of March this year according to the Bureau of Plant Industry.

Self-sufficiency in yellow corn in the country was achieved in 2013 because of improvements in yellow corn production, attributed largely to the introduction and increasing adoption of modern biotech corn. The Philippines was also able to export corn silage to South Korea totaling to 1,144 metric tons by 2014 despite limitations by natural calamities, port congestion and increasing shipping costs. Initially in 2002,Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt corn was approved for commercial planting in the country. Bt, a species of bacteria naturally found in soil, kills certain insect pests, such as the Asiatic corn borer (ACB), by producing crystal (Cry) protein that is toxic to them. Other insects and animals are not harmed by these Cry proteins. In 2005, a herbicide tolerant modern biotech corn was commercialized as well as modern biotech corn varieties possessing both traits were approved for commercialization.

The permit to plant Bt corn in commercial scale was granted by the Bureau of Plant Industry subject to oversight measures, including compliance to insect resistant management (IRM) strategy and monitoring of development of insect resistance and other unintended effects.

Scientists and regulators are aware of the possibility of development of ACB resistance to the Cry protein incorporated into Bt corn since researchers have ascertained that ACB as a species has the genetic flexibility to adapt towards resistance to the Cry protein.

A research project focusing on the screening of Bt resistance allele in the ACB population is currently being supported by the Biotech Program of the Department of Agriculture that ultimately aims to develop a monitoring system for resistance to Bt cry protein. The study is being conducted by researchers at the Crop Protection Cluster of the College of Agriculture, UP Los Baños led by Dr. Barbara Caoili using representative samples collected from Bt corn sentinel sites in Isabela. The research team targets to come up with a system to screen for and detect any resistance at an early stage. In due course, the goal is to design appropriate insect resistance management strategies to prevent or delay such resistance. This would enable further research to counter the impending resistance, prolonging the usefulness of Bt technology, and all the benefits in terms of yield and farmer income along with it.

The Bureau of Plant Industry, for its part, has developed a manual on insect and weed resistance management data collection for post-commercial monitoring of biotech corn in the Philippines to guide regulators, local monitors, local officers, technology developers, and biotech corn farmers. This initiative is part of the effort to enhance our regulatory capacity to ensure the safe and responsible utilization and commercialization of modern biotechnology and its products.

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Barbara L. Caoili
Professor 1 and Project Leader
Crop Protection Cluster, College of Agriculture, UP Los Baños
Tel No.  (049) 536-1315
Dr. Antonio Alfonso
Director, Biotechnology Program Office
Department of Agriculture
Tel No. (632) 922-0057 / 927-0426

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