Stronger policy support to agri-biotech needed
A call for robust policies and laws that will advance biotechnology research and development, technology development, and commercialization was made during the Biotechnology for Green Recovery webinar organized by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) and the Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program Office with the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines, International Rice Research Institute, and the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture and Food.
The webinar was held during the 17th National Biotechnology Week led by the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Focused on agriculture, bioeconomy, and scientific infrastructure, the webinar series incited critical discussions towards the creation of a policy environment that will further promote the development of bio-based industries.
Dr. Segfredo R. Serrano, a Searca scholarship alumnus and former DA undersecretary for policy and planning, said having a resilient food system to combat the impacts of climate change and other natural and man-made disasters remains a challenge amid population growth and declining resources for food and agriculture.
He said food safety and nutritional security should also be among the top priorities alongside food security.
Serrano said modern biotechnology is not a silver bullet, but it is a powerful and potentially greener option. He said technologies such as genetic modification, CRISPR, and new breeding techniques offer greater specificity, efficiency, and precision at suppression, enhancement, deletion, or insertion of target traits, which improves product safety.
He said for these technologies to thrive in the country, there needs to be a strong set of policies and laws that promote their advancement in terms of research and development (R&D), technology development, and commercialization.
More importantly, Serrano said the country’s regulatory system should be strengthened.
“The system should not be reactive, and the regulators should be two steps ahead of the technology that is being introduced on the ground,” Serrano said.
Dr. Edgardo E. Tulin, Visayas State University president, batted for a harmonized R&D agenda with focus on the country’s top export commodities. He pushed for scientists and researchers to be actively involved in the Senate or Congress sessions related to science and technology.
“Governance should also be more agile, with better convergence and coordination among agencies,” Serrano said.
This was affirmed by Searca Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, who concurred with Serrano on the value of synergy among key stakeholders in the academe, industry, and government.
“We should be partners in biotech research and collaborate on co-sharing financial resources to shorten the gap between research and knowledge utilization including contextualizing research projects within the agriculture value chain,” Gregorio said.
He added these technologies keep food production in phase with modern demands.
“We must outsmart climate change, create healthier food, and fast-track the delivery of agricultural products. The reality of agri-biotech is won or loss at the farmer and consumer level where applicability and sustainability is really tested,” said Gregorio, who was also recognized by DA as one of the 2021 Filipino Faces of Biotechnology.
The Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines, Inc. was also represented in the forum by its president, Dr. Benigno D. Peczon, who spoke on the issues besetting the country’s agriculture sector, including globalization, sub-optimal farm sizes, credit access, existing policies and practices, and infrastructure.
He called on policymakers to augment the budget of the DA and the Department of Science and Technology to keep pace with other countries. – Press release