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Withholding GM crops from farmers an 'injustice'

- Rudy A. Fernandez () - May 22, 2011 - 12:00am

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines  — Let farmers decide whether to adopt biotechnology or genetically modified (GM) crops.

“Withholding biotech from among their options would be an injustice to them as food producers and members of the food-consuming society,” stressed Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. of the Los Baños-based, government-hosted Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization-Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEAMEO SEARCA).

His forum was the annual seminar on “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops” held recently at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City.

The 2011 science forum was organized by the New York (USA)-based International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) in partnership with SEARCA and the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).

SEARCA is one of the 20 “centers of excellence” of SEAMEO, an intergovernment treaty organization founded in 1965 to foster cooperation among Southeast Asian nations in the fields of education, science, and culture.

NAST is the country’s highest advisory and recognition body on S&T.

Dr. Saguiguit pointed out that already struggling from their poverty further exacerbated by often disastrous natural calamities, farmers in developing Southeast Asian countries “must make a crucial decision — will they believe in the promise of biotechnology as this generation’s agricultural ‘messiah’ or should they listen to the naysayers regarding the supposed dangers and risks it brings?”

He averred that farmers are keen businessmen — they go for technologies that would give them the most returns to their investments. Therefore, denying them science-generated technologies such as GM crops is “an injustice.”

In his presentation, Dr. Saguiguit cited Isidro Acosta, a successful biotech corn farmer in Isabela, who reported at the seminar that many corn farmers in the country continue to benefit from planting Bt corn.

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a bacterium that naturally occurs in soil. Through genetic engineering technique, a specific gene of Bt has been inserted in a corn variety. The Bt corn produces its natural pesticide against the Asiatic corn borer, the most destructive corn pest in the Philippines and other parts of Asia.

Acosta attested that Bt corn planters have doubled their harvest and income while at the same time considerably reducing production cost as their use of pesticides has been significantly minimized or virtually eliminated.

Dr. Saguiguit also commended ISAAA founder and current chairman Dr. Clive James “for championing the cause of biotechnology and tirelessly tracking its global progress and sharing his findings and insights with us.”

ACQUISITION OF AGRI CORN DIRECTOR GIL C DR. CLIVE JAMES DR. SAGUIGUIT DUSIT THANI HOTEL GLOBAL STATUS OF COMMERCIALIZED BIOTECH GRADUATE STUDY AND RESEARCH INTERNATIONAL SERVICE ISIDRO ACOSTA SOUTHEAST ASIAN
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