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In a public briefing and Biotechnology 101 to stakeholders in Northern Mindanao, Merle Palacpac, chief agriculturist, Office of the Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and Regulations of Department of Agriculture shares that the Joint Department Circular (JDC) No. 1 series of 2016 of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Health (DOH), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) assures government’s responsibility on biosafety in the country.
The JDC otherwise known as the Rules and Regulations for the Research and Development, Handling and Use, Transboundary Movement, Release into the Environment and Management of Genetically-Modified (GM) Plant and Plant Products Derived from the Use of Modern Biotechnology was in full effect since 15 April 2016.
Dr. Saturnina Halos, chair of Biotechnology Advisory Team of DA explained that there are many concerns of biotech crops such as its impact on biodiversity due to invasiveness, impact on wild relatives and impact on nontarget organisms. She said that this is why there is regulation which requires studies and measures to preclude adverse impact of biotech crop to wild relatives and testing of the insecticide produced by the plant on non-target organisms.
She added that food safety issues are also assessed by regulatory system using the Codex alimentarius guidelines, a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations relating to foods, food production and food safety.
Halos revealed that in terms of regulation, GM crops is regulated in many aspects including to ensure food and environmental safety; social, ethical and economic issues considered.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are products developed through genetic engineering. Scientists have developed different crops with enhanced characteristics. Aside from plants that have built-in insect repellent, some plants have been developed to resist weed killer applications, fight diseases, withstand intense heat from the sun, produce nutritious oils, delay ripening. Further, biotech crops undergo a long process of testing and evalu- ation before they become available in the market.
Among the GM crops planted all over the world include soybean, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beet, squash, potato, eggplant and papaya among others.
In the Philippines, biotech (BT) yellow corn is the only one yet available in the market. This is used as animal feed and use as food and processing. Biotech Maize has been planted in the Philippines since 2003 of about 6.03 million hectares according to International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
In terms of global perspective, Dr. Lourdes D. Taylo, University Researcher of University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) shares that the global population is increasing. There is hidden hunger due to malnutrition, nutritional deficiency, vitamin A deficiency and as a result, 500,000 children go blind.
She said that many are still afraid of GMOs because they think this is poison, has harmful effects to human, animals and environment, contamination and cause of cancer and other abnormalities.