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Genetically modified corn farms in PH expanding

Published on December 2, 2020 | Karl R. Ocampo,

Production areas for genetically engineered (GE) corn in the Philippines have gone up by as much as 7,607 percent over the past two decades, a report from the Global Agricultural Information Network (Gain) showed.

The agency, operating under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), said that this “indicates increased farmer acceptance and awareness of the safety and benefits of using GE corn.”

From 10,769 hectares (ha) in 2013, the land dedicated to GE corn has exponentially grown to 834,617 ha this year. It was in 2002 when the government allowed Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn to be produced commercially—the first genetically modified crop to have secured the permit.

A GE expert was quoted by the USDA as saying that the use of GE corn might also delay the spread of the fall armyworm pest, which the Department of Agriculture said had already destroyed about 11,000 ha of corn farms in 57 provinces.

But the Gain report also stressed that the use of counterfeit GE seeds had continued to proliferate in the country which might prove detrimental to the corn and seed industries.

“Although cheaper, they are inferior in quality and sold without proper stewardship measures,” the Gain report said.

It estimated that about 10 percent of the GE seeds being sold in the domestic market are counterfeit, and that “GE corn area would be higher if the use of counterfeit GE seeds were included.”

According to the Bureau of Plant Industry, more than 70 percent of GE corn is planted in Luzon while 24 percent is grown in Mindanao. The remaining 7 percent is cultivated in the Visayas.

While there have been lawsuits filed to stop the commercialization of certain GM crops due to safety concerns, the DA as well as the Department of Science and Technology have been open to the use of genetically engineered crops.

In fact, the DA last year affirmed the safety of Golden Rice —another GM crop—for direct use as food, feed, or processing.

Early this year, the House Committee on Science and Technology also approved a bill seeking to streamline the process of approving biotechnology products.

The bill, known as the Modern Biotechnology Act, is being touted as a means to increase the yields and incomes of farmers who are often doubled down by rudimentary practices and climate change.

As such, the USDA projected that policies geared toward the development and use of biotechnology in the country may be completed as near as 2021.

It added that next year may also be the “debut of regulatory frameworks for genetically engineered animals and for new breeding techniques (e.g. gene editing).” INQ



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