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Farmer-leader backs wider propagation of biotech corn

THE Philippines continues to be a leading player in the full commercialization of biotech food crops, beating such giants as China and India, both of which are promoting the cultivation of Bacillius thuringiensis (Bt) corn.

At the International Conference on Adoption of Biotech Crops in the Developing World: Case Studies of Farmers from China, India and the Philippines, held at the Hyatt Hotel in Manila on Tuesday, farmer-leader Delson Sonza of Sara town, Iloilo province, said more and more Ilonggo farmers are planting Bt corn because of its enormous economic benefits and less environmentally destructive “no-tillage system,” which was introduced in 1998.

The two-day conference was organized by the John Templeton Foundation, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca), the National Academy for Science and Technology, the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.

Searca Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. told participants from China, India, North and South America, Africa and Europe that the conference was crucial in learning how the world has taken biotech crops seriously and why certain countries are advancing and defending their food sovereignty and security, while others lag behind.

“As a regional center for agriculture, Searca looks at biotechnology as an important tool to increase food production in light of the [current] concerns of the region on food security and a growing population,” Saguiguit said.

“However, there are some who are skeptical in adopting this technology because of anecdotal accounts of its detrimental effects to human and environmental health. But as rational individuals, we must instead count on scientific and empirical pieces of evidence as bases of our decision to adopt biotechnology,” he said.

In his presentation, Sonza showed that farmers in Iloilo planted Bt corn primarily because of economic benefits, with net income reaching P31,590 per hectare for Bt corn from an output of 5,000 kilos. This is much better than the income earned from non-Bt corn varieties that require fertilizers costing P13,820 and total production costs reaching P33,050 per hectare.

So convinced were the Ilonggo farmers that the area planted with Bt corn rose from 1,800 hectares to 9,300 hectares in two years, with maximum hectarage at 25,000 in 2007, according to the farmer-leader.

He told the participants that each Bt-corn farmer earns an average of P30,000 per hectare, helping them save more money as the crop does not require plowing and weeding.

“Due to rising incomes, children can now attend school and even enroll in college. There is money to buy home appliances and even postharvest facilities,” he said.


In Photo: Agriculture Undersecretary Dr. Segfredo R. Serrano discusses the adoption of biotech crops in China, India and the Philippines during the International Conference on the Adoption of Biotech Crops in the Developing World at the Hyatt Hotel in Manila on Tuesday. Also in photo are (from left) Virgina Cardenas, deputy director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture; Randy A. Hautea, global coordinator and International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application Southeast Asia Center director; and Frank Shotkoski of the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II. (PNA Photo)


 

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