'Spread the gospel of biotech' — these were the words of Engr. Alson Quimba, Provincial Agriculturist of the Province of Bukidnon, Philippines to more than 150 farmers, local government officers, and members of the academe and consumer groups during the Biotech 101 and Joint Department Circular Public (JDC) Public Briefing held in the province on August 16, 2019. A training on Storytelling Agri-Innovations thru Social Media was held the following day, attended by around 30 information officers from the province.
Engr. Quimba encouraged the participants to study both sides of the biotech debate. "At the end of the day, we want our farming to be profitable and we have experts here who have explained the benefits of biotech, so why not consider it?" he added.
Scientists and experts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP), and Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry presented the food and environment safety of GM crops, different biotech products in the pipeline, and the implementation of the country's regulatory system. Mr. Rey Cabanao, President of the Asian Farmers Regional Network Philippines (ASFARNET) and a biotech advocate, also shared his experiences and success in adopting GM crops.
Among the concerns raised was the long-term effects of GM crops, to which the experts responded that GM crops are not introduced in the market without undergoing a rigid set of biosafety tests. They also underlined the importance of the JDC No. 1, Series of 2016 as an inter-agency endeavor to ensure the safety of GM food in the country. The experts likewise discouraged the use of sigue-sigue seeds (cross-pollinated GM corn with the traditional variety) since it compromises the seed quality and generates lower yields than their GM corn counterparts. Additionally, there was a clamor for Bt eggplant seeds as farmers expressed their anticipation for its release.
Meanwhile, the social media training, which intends to equip stakeholders with the skills as well as share tips on how to promote biotech in social media, was met with an enthusiastic response from the participants. The group learned how to create a social media plan, craft exciting posts, and maximize engagement with their audience through Facebook and Twitter.
The activity was organized by the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Biotechnology Information Office, ISAAA, and the Bukidnon Provincial Agricultural Office.