Tue, 19 Jan 2021

Experts discuss biotech crops as a greener solution

Philippine Information Agency
05 Dec 2020, 04:38 GMT+10

LOS BAnOS, Laguna, Dec 5 (PIA) --A UK-based agricultural economist and scientists from the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) reported that using crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide use associated with environmental impact and has been found to be beneficial for agricultural biodiversity.

The experts discussed these during an online technical forum on "Greener Greens: Environmental Impact of Biotech Crops" convened by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) in partnership with the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines, CropLife Asia, Program for Biosafety Systems, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Department of Agriculture-Biotechnology Program Office (DA-BPO), UPLB-Institute of Plant Breeding, and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

Dr. Graham Brookes, an agricultural economist at the UK-based PG Economics Ltd, presented the cumulative impact of using genetically modified (GM) crop technology in agriculture from 1996 to 2018.

Aside from significant net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to more than USD 200 billion over a period of 22 years, he also presented key environmental impacts associated with using crop biotechnology such as reduced pesticide application by 775.4 million kg (8.3%). He said this resulted in the decreased environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on crops.

"Genetic modification is an important contribution to increasing world production of soybeans, corn, canola and cotton-resulting in higher yields, higher incomes, more reliable food supply, adoption of more sustainable farming systems, more environmentally-friendly farming methods, and reduction in carbon emissions," Dr. Brookes said.

This was affirmed by a study on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn and arthropod biodiversity in corn fields presented by Dr. Merdelyn Caasi-Lit and Dr. Ireneo L. Lit, Jr., both professors and scientists at UPLB. Their study showed that as Bt corn ensures good yield by protecting the crop against corn borer infestation andreducing farm inputs for pesticide use, it has also proven to be beneficial for agrobiodiversity.

"Increased arthropod diversity should be considered precious bonuses added to the economic gains of planting Bt corn. They make Bt corn farming more ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable," Dr. Caasi-Lit explained.

The three experts also addressed questions and concerns from participants that ranged from mitigating possible environmental impact of unauthorized GM seeds to recommendations on existing regulatory policies, status of CRISPR-Cas9 projects in the country, and effective means of promoting knowledge about the advantages of GMOs in agriculture and economy.

The forum was as part of the 16th National Biotechnology Week led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). More than a thousand participants from Asia, Europe, and South America attended the forum, including a big turnout of students and teachers from different universities in the Philippines.

In co-organizing the forum, SEARCA affirms its commitment to promote credible, science-based innovations said SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio.

"As current global pandemic and recent calamities put more pressure on every sector of society to be innovative, it is high time to emphasize the positive impacts of biotechnology on the various sectors especially in the area of environmental protection and sustainability, which also encompasses food production and consumption," Gregorio stressed. (PIA-4A/SEARCA)

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