Issuu on Google+

NO. 2 • APRIL 2010

More small farmers shifting to biotech corn

Expert OKs aerial spraying practice in RP

a

An international expert on aerial spraying invited by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) has observed the safety and efficiency of the method used to control the sigatoka fungus in banana plantations in Mindanao. Dr. Andrew Hewitt, who has been working on aerial spraying in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, US, Malaysia, Chile, Costa Rica and other Latin American countries, visited banana plantations in Davao del Norte and said the manner of aerial spraying complied with international standards. Hewitt spent three days in Mindanao to observe how aerial spraying of fungicide against sigatoka is conducted. One of the plantations which he visited is that of the La Panday Agricultural Corporation in Hagonoy, Davao del Sur. “The spraying that we observed was very professional. How you should spray the target and keep the pesticide on the banana crop is the purpose of spraying in the first place. We then looked to the ground sprayer, it would spray closer to the homes that people live. And I believe that the aircraft is the better application method, precisely putting the spray on the crop without drifting to the neighboring community,” he said. “In the US, they do a lot of spraying on rice for example, cotton, grains and many crops with aircraft. And it is done safely, and it is regulated and is done professionally. In Queeensland, where I worked in Australia as well, they spray bananas with aircraft and that’s done very safely and there’s no health issue,” Hewitt added. Turn to page 3

PMCP says there is no need to ban aerial spraying

Bishops nix ban on aerial spray


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

RP can adopt standard aerial spraying practice in Davao – GMA There was a recommendation to ban aerial spraying, but it “was not received as an expert technical report” because it only represented the opinion of those opposed to the practice.

2

D

AVAO CITY—President Arroyo says the Philippines would observe the “standard practice” of other countries on aerial spraying of fungicides in banana plantations in Davao. The President told journalists that a task force, which may be comprised of international experts chosen by the stakeholders, will address the proposed aerialspray ban in the province. Asked whether she has directives regarding the proposed ban on aerial spraying in Mindanao, she said: “What is the practice in other countries? Then that’s what we should do here. Surely, there are standard practices in other countries.” The President did not elaborate on these so-called standard practices, but aerial spraying is allowed and widely used in major banana-exporting countries. The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters

Association and some Mindanao lawmakers are opposed to the proposed ban on aerial spraying since plantations would be forced to shut down, as ground or manual spraying of fungicides would be too costly. Mrs. Arroyo said that Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on Mindanao Affairs, is “handling” the issue of aerial spraying. Dureza said that there are plans to create a “highlevel technical task force to make an independent study and come up with recommendations” on the matter. He said there was a recommendation to ban aerial spraying, but it “was not received as an expert technical report” because it only represented the opinion of those opposed to the practice. Dureza noted that even the World Health Organization has no stand on aerial spray.

“Our government will have to look into a possible high-level expert group that will come up with a study that will be transparent, open and acceptable to all the contending parties so we will be accordingly guided on what to do,” he said. Dureza said the Department of Agriculture (DA), representing the government, concerned industry leaders and non-government organizations (NGOs) opposed to the practice may agree to choose mutually acceptable international experts who will comprise the task force. He said he could not foresee a possible pullout of banana-plantation owners from Davao since they themselves have expressed confidence “that this will be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.” “Not maybe to the full satisfaction of everybody, but it will be addressed appropriately by the govern-

ment because this is a very sensitive issue in Mindanao. The banana industry is a very large part of Mindanao’s economy so it is worrisome also, but having said that, whatever experts come out with in their proposed study, then we will see what the government will do,” Dureza said. Recently, the Commission on Human Rights joined groups calling for an aerial-spray ban, citing health risks. Dr. Andrew Hewitt, an international expert on aerial spraying, said earlier that he visited and observed the use of aerial spraying in some banana plantations in Davao del Norte. He attested that “the manner of aerial spraying complied with international standards. The spraying that we observed in Mindanao was very professional.” Based on a story on Business Mirror online space.


Expert OKs aerial spraying practice in RP From page 1 “In Costa Rica, where they spray with aircraft, we’ve done research and found that’s the safest way to spray banana crops in Latin America. I have done research in oil palm spraying in Malaysia, where again we compared spraying with aircraft with ground equipment and found that the aircraft is the better way to do it,” he stressed. Hewitt said he did not hear of any concern about aerial spraying from the people he visited and talked with. “The local people, I didn’t hear any concerns from the local people at this time. We visited the village and we observed the spraying from a high tower, so we were able to get high, to have a good look down almost on the aircraft, we couldn’t see any spray drift from the application. It was very professional, so when they spray, they typically do it very early in the morning

when the wind is very low and you can actually see the material going down toward the crop and not drifting into the neighboring communities,” he added. Hewitt said ground spraying does not perform as well as spraying by an aircraft “simply because the aircraft sprays down, while a ground sprayer tends to spray up, or sideways and so there’s going to be more opportunity for the spray to move from the target, compared to an aircraft which is going to go down towards the banana plant.” The expert said he had been involved in many years of research on spray drift in the US, New Zealand, Australia and in Canada. “In the US, we spent $23 million in looking at drift from aerial spraying as well as other spray types. So we did hundreds of studies into different aircraft, nozzles, droplet size, temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, height of the aircraft

The advantage of the aircraft is that it can spray very rapidly and then it’s safe again within a few minutes.

and we developed models that we can then use to help us spray safely so that we can answer the conditions that we would have to apply the pesticide under and then do it safely so that it only goes on the crop and not off the crop. The applicator doesn’t want the chemical to move off the crop, either,” Hewitt revealed. The scientist said those models can safely assess the risk of pesticide exposure and avoid harm to people or

the environment and have been accepted by many governments and are now used to regulate pesticides in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Latin America and Europe. Hewitt said the controls in aircraft used in aerial spraying allow the one applying the solution to control the boom, the position of the nozzles on the boom and even turn off the nozzles of the boom and spray with just one boom. “That’s been shown in studies to really reduce spray drift far more than the ground sprayer would probably do,” he added. “The spraying that I observed today and the spraying that I expect to occur, it should be safe for people to stay. If they are concerned, then maybe they should close their windows, stay indoors, because it is very quick. The advantage of the aircraft is that it can spray very rapidly and then

it’s safe again within a few minutes. But it’s safe the whole time, but if they are concerned, they can certainly stay indoors,” Hewitt stressed. “In many countries, industry develops its management practices. So, in some countries industry regulates itself. For example, maximum boom length, wind speed. My opinion is that you have these things in place in the Philippines but maybe not formally in a written document as a national standard. So that is something I’d be pleased to help draft a single page of guidelines for how you should spray. That is the one level industry self regulates. Then the other level would be government regulation where they may specify similar measures more formally on a label of a pesticide or on a guideline. Different countries take different approaches,” Hewitt noted.

An airplane used in aerial spraying

Dr. Andrew Hewitt talks with the pilot and staff of the banana plantation after the aerial spraying of fungicide.

This nozzle is used in the aerial spraying of fungicides on banana plants.

3


Dr. Gil Magsino (left) and Dr. Romulo Davide

PMCP says there is no need to ban aerial spraying T

he Pest Management Council of the Philippines (PMCP) said aerial spraying remains the safest and most effective method of applying agricultural chemicals on huge plantations. The position paper presented by PMCP President Gil Magsino at the group’s Annual Scientific Conference in Davao City from March 9 to 12 clearly stated, “There is no need to ban this application method of aerial spraying.” Philippine agriculture pillars like Dr. Romulo Davide, Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, attended the conference, along with more than 300 experts, among them noted plant pathologists, entomologists, weed scientists and vertebrate pest scientists. In its 40-year history of use in the Philippines, aerial spraying, “has not exhibited any alarming indication of 4

In its 40-year history of use in the Philippines, aerial spraying, “has not exhibited any alarming indication of environmental or epidemiological proportions. environmental or epidemiological proportions,” the PMCP confirmed. The group also echoed the stand of Congress and the banana industry itself, that the solution is adequate and enforceable regulation of the practice. Standards which can be adopted in a highly agricultural economy and society as in the Philippines have been established worldwide to ensure safe and responsible aerial spraying, the group continued. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently gave a similar position on the issue, which the council labeled as “most

reasonable.” PMCP also called for the continued strengthening of the Department of Agriculture’s Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority as a regulatory agency that monitors aerial spraying. The council proposed that monitoring steps should address public and environmental health, and that results be made public and transparent. The group also suggested that active steps should be continued to bridge the gap among the public, the scientific community and stakeholders. PMCP, the largest group of professional scientists

in the field of entomology, plant pathology, weed science and related field of discipline, is mainly engaged in research, training and extension on pest management. The council, made up of three scientific societies — Philippine Association of Entomologists, Philippine Phytopathological Society, and the Weed Science Society of the Philippines — seeks to promote these researches and the application of scientific knowledge and cooperate with the government in all matters of national concern in the field of pest management. CropLife, Crop Protection Association of the Philippines, Philippine Integrated Crop Management Association Inc., and Pest Control Association of the Philippines are also members of the council, along with affiliates from the academe, private and government sectors.


Bishops nix ban on aerial spray Pastoral statement strengthens position of banana growers

C

atholic prelates in the Davao Region say there is no sufficient data to warrant a total ban on the aerial spraying of fungicide in banana plantations. In a signed pastoral statement issued after their quarterly meeting on March 3 and 4, Archbishop Francisco R. Capalla of Davao, and Bishops Wilfredo D. Manlapaz of Tagum, Patricio H. Alo of Mati and Guillermo V. Afable of Digos, along with Auxiliary Bishop George B. Rimando of Davao stressed they arrived at this position after a previous meeting on December 2 and 3 last year in Tagum City with vicars general, pastoral directors and leaders of different apostolates and programs did not arrive at any collective decision. The statement said the bishops invited all groups concerned with the issue of aerial spraying of fungicide in banana plantations to get a clearer picture of the issue and arrive at a consensus. The bishops also lashed out at the passionate debates about the matter that never clarified but muddled the issue. “We deplore the distortion of the issue by ideological and vested interest groups,” the bishops stressed. “We urge all contending parties to sit down together to resolve the issues through as truthful and mutually respectful dialogue for the sake of the common good,” Capalla and his fellow bishops counseled. Known popularly as Daditama, the four ecclesiastical territories have millions of members, many of whom are engaged in the banana trade, from cultivation to harvesting to processing and export. The prelates said they heard the views of the Mamamayang Ayaw sa Aerial Spray (MAAS)/Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) represented by Anne Fuentes, the Philippine Banana Growers

and Exporters Association (PBGEA) led by Stephen Antig, the Department of Health (DoH) Davao del Norte led by Engr. Rex Labadia and Dr. Agapito Hornido, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through Mr. Turbilla, the Department of Agriculture (DA), represented by Mr. Rodrigo Madarang and the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA). During their meeting on March 2 and 3, the prelates said they discussed the matter anew and decided to issue a pastoral statement and clarify the position of the Daditama Catholic clergy on the issue. “Based on the information and clarifications gathered during the two quarterly meetings, we believe that there are no sufficient data to warrant total ban on aerial spraying,” the bishops said. However, they argued for a more responsible monitoring of the application of fungicides. “To avoid future harmful effects in the use of fungicides, safe measures in the regulated use of fungicides should be strictly implemented with corresponding sanctions by collective efforts of national agencies, local government units (LGUs) and local non-government organizations (NGOs),” they argued. “We recommend that the multipartite monitoring team established by the government agencies to be more active in monitoring the operations of banana plantations do a more exhaustive study and scientific research on the effects of aerial spraying in their respective areas of responsibilities,” Capalla and the other bishops said. “We recommend to everyone concerned to seriously consider the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) recommendation regarding the shift to organic farming as a safer agricultural practice,” they added.

5


The earlier, the better By Simeon Cuyson Executive Director, CropLife Philippines, Inc.

T

he aerial spraying issue has been hanging over our heads for sometime now. It has certainly taken a lot of valuable time and resources of people on both sides of the debate, and must have also sent confusing signals especially to people at large who are not familiar with the issue. The early final resolution of the dispute over the propriety of using aerial spraying as a method of applying fungicides to control the dreaded sigatoka disease of Cavendish bananas is in order. It would benefit not only the banana industry and its direct and indirect beneficiaries, but also the entire agricultural sector. It will also help reassure people and put their minds to rest that their health is not at risk because proper safeguards are in place and are actually being enforced. To our minds, there are a few musts which need to be done before we can see a final resolution or closure to the aerial spraying issue on the basis that this is brought about by an independent body composed of people of proven scientific integrity and credibility. These musts are: 1. Since this is an issue involving the health and environment of communities in and around banana plantations, the real technical issue is drift. The drift profile of each aerially sprayed fungicidal compound must be scientifically determined. There are available tools which can be used for this purpose, such as the AG DRIFT and the AGDISP models, peer- reviewed and approved by the US EPA and in use in other countries. The drift profile of each fungicidal compound could then be subjected to a comprehensive risk assessment process to determine the risks of any harmful effects on the health of people and the environment and corresponding risk management measures that should be taken. This function lies with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA). Sad to say however, such drift risk assessment process represents a gap in FPA’s regulatory process. There are established and internationally accepted standards such as No Observed Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL), Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI), Acceptable Operator Exposure Level (AOEL), and others, which can be used to arrive at scientific conclusions about the level of risk that can be reasonably expected from exposure to these fungicides. Likewise, the conclusions coming out of this exercise would help set realistic buffer zone requirements. 2. An epidemiological study to determine if there is really a link between use of certain fungicide/s and health problems in the communities can be conducted hand in hand with proper environmental sampling and analysis. All of these should be done by independent-minded and objective scientists and researchers from different disciplines, whose work should not be technically influenced by their personal advocacies. 3. Based on 1 and 2 above, any and all gaps in existing regulations and in their implementation should be properly addressed. Any improvements necessary for the proper and enforceable regulation of aerial spraying should be put in place. This should include strengthening of the existing multi-sectoral monitoring teams. Having said all that, we must be able to balance regulations with socio-economic realities. We must not lose sight of the need for us to improve the country’s agricultural productivity in the face of one of the fastest growing populations in the world. There is virtually no room for expansion in our arable land without sacrificing environmental degradation and sustainability, such as what is now happening in the slopes of some of the vegetable growing areas in the Cordilleras. Even with our basic staple — rice, it seems to be a never ending race for self-sufficiency. Furthermore, in a bigger context, we cannot continue to be able to feed 700 million hungry people without making use of available productivity-enhancing technologies and good governance. Scientific enterprise has developed better technologies as society continues to grow. In the same token, technologies related to crop protection continue to evolve and contribute to making agriculture more sustainable. Already, some researchbased companies are using green chemistry to develop new and safer molecules. In fact more low-toxicity, low-dose, target-specific, and environment-friendly molecules have been and are being developed. 6

Harvest is a quarterly publication of CropLife Philippines, Inc. in partnership with the Initiative for Farm Advocacy and Resource Management (IFARM). CropLife headquarters is at Unit 5E MAPFRE Asian Condominium Center, Acacia Avenue, Madrigal Business Park, Alabang, Muntinlupa City 1780. Telefax (+632) 772-3992 / (+632) 772-3993 / Cell No. (+63917) 824-3992 / (+63917) 838-3992. E-mail address: ea_croplife@pldtdsl.net / ed_croplife@pldtdsl.net. Editorial offices are located at IFARM, 2/F The Advocacy House, 8 Scout Chuatoco St., Roxas District, Quezon City. Telefax (+632) 372-8560. For comments and editorial contributions, email at info@safepinoy.com. You may also visit our website www.safepinoy.com. Simeon Cuyson, publisher • Joel C. Paredes and Cris T. Michelena, editors • Nanie Gonzales, art director • Ian Go, editorial coordinator and deskman • Beth Jazildo, business coordinator

Science to H

umanity is set to grapple with the specter of famine in the next 40 years, when the total global population is expected hit nine billion. Jack Bobo, a senior US Department of Agriculture (USDA) biotechnology advisor, has warned that developing countries must be ready to grapple with this problem not five years from 2010 but now. Today, an estimated 850 million people are deficient in food, and many of them are farmers who should not be hungry since they produce food and are expected to keep their share of grain. However, with cash crops taking over rice and other staples, the erstwhile subsistence farmer has fallen victim to the operations of largely consumerist economies, which provides the market with what it wants and not what it needs. The late Nobel laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, acknowledged as the father of the Green Revolution, wanted developing economies to be self-sufficient in food and so off he went to Mexico to work on corn and succeeded in raising the output in due time. Borlaug worked wonders with wheat as well, and thus improved output to make bread eaters doubly pleased. He then tried to impart his technological innovations and scientific experiments to make poor farmers self-reliant and they organized themselves into production units ready to share experiences and seeds. Survival was a common goal for agricultural communities. Today, 50 or so years after the Borlaug revolution, hunger rates have risen by 11 percent worldwide, particularly in Asia,

Editorial

The use of modern biotechnology or genetic engineering has given rise to the evolution of so called plant incorporated protectants that minimize the use of chemical sprays, such as in the case of Bt corn and Bt cotton. Herbicide resistant crops give farmers substantial savings and flexibility on labor. More traits, including improvements in nutritional properties of crops, development of drought-resistant and flood-tolerant plant varieties are in varying stages of development. It would also be important to note that there is vibrant research and development going on in both the private and public sector in the field of Biotechnology. Likewise, cutting-edge application technology, such as in aerial spraying, has evolved to substantially improve accuracy and safety vis a vis off-target spray or drift. Some groups have argued that going organic is the wave of the future. Yes,


CropLife Philippines, Inc. 2010-2011 Officers and Board of Directors Jose Ramon L. Valmayor, Syngenta Philippines, President; Rodolfo F. Macatula, DuPont Far East, Inc. Phils., Vice President; Florence B. Vasquez, Bayer CropScience Phils., Secretary; Dennis C. Miciano, Sinochem Crop Protection Phils., Treasurer; Fernando C. Tagalog, Jardine Distribution, Inc.; Edgar Juan C. Surtida III, Monsanto Philippines, Director; Claro C. Arriola, BASF Philippines, Director, and; Simeon A. Cuyson, Executive Director.

IFARM Board Dr. Calixto Protacio, chair • Joel C. Paredes, president • Cris T. Michelena, managing director • Attorney Roberto Oliva, Dr. Renato Labadan, Floreño Solmerano, directors

the rescue which already produces 90 percent of the rice it needs. China itself has started outsourcing its rice requirements from African countries where agribusiness companies bankrolled by Beijing are operating. The global rice trade has been reduced to handling only 5 percent of the total global output, down from 7 percent. With all these problems staring humanity in the face, science has to be deputized to work in developing new crop strains that can grow well under conditions of flooding, drought and aberrant climatic conditions through the El Niño-La Niña cycle. Thanks to biotechnology and the trailblazing work of scientists who are committed to develop genetically-durable but autochthonous strains suited to the specific geography and climatic conditions of poorer nations. Biotechnology is needed to succor the teeming billions who are faced with reduced food supply as more farms are freed for cultivation of cash crops and those earmarked for biofuel. It is time for science to be utilized to ease the pain of living in a world of scarcity. Thanks to the deep fount of creativity, the planet need not be victimized by wars over food and land. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. we agree that there is room for those who are willing to grow and eat organic and pay the price for it, just as there is room for people who are willing to grow and eat conventionally grown food crops and pay less for it. That is freedom of choice. Yes, balanced fertilization with both organic and inorganic sources must be practiced. But until such time that suitable, specific and practical organic technologies are developed, yields of organically-grown crops cannot be expected to provide food, feed, and shelter for the entire humanity. We must be able to empower our farmers to make intelligent choices and make use of different available technologies to improve productivity and quality of their produce. The earlier we recognize this, the better for all of us. Likewise, the earlier the aerial spraying issue is resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, the better for millions of Filipinos.

Meeting our coming challenges By Jose Valmayor President, CropLife Philippines, Inc.

I

t gives me great pleasure to welcome readers to the first edition of HARVEST for 2010. HARVEST is the newsletter of CropLife Philippines. For the information of non-CropLife members, CropLife Philippines is an affiliate association of Crop Life Asia, and represents the plant science industry in our part of the world. It is also a great honor for me to address you as the new President of CropLife Philippines, having assumed office together with a new set of officers last January. As we all know our world faces stiff challenges in producing enough food safely, affordably and sustainably to meet our growing needs. Every day society has to meet the need for more and better quality food produced in a way that does not damage our precious natural habitats. The Philippines is a good case in point. The National Statistics Office (NSO) has forecast that our population will grow by 50 million over the next 30 years. How will we feed 140 million people in 2040 on fewer hectares and less freshwater than is available to agriculture today? The Philippines is already the largest importer of rice in the world. The El Niño weather phenomenon reminds us just how fragile and vulnerable our production systems can be. How can we sustainably meet our needs for food security in the future? Clearly the solution lies in producing more on the same amount of land and using similar amounts of water as we use today. Here, science has a big role to play in helping farmers grow more from the same or less resources. It means more productive cultivars, either through conventional breeding Our world faces stiff challenges or modified gene technology, in producing enough food safely, better agronomy and fertilizer practices, irrigation systems, affordably and sustainably to integrated pest management, meet our growing needs. small-scale mechanization, and post-harvest management contribute to farmers’ productivity. According to FAO statistics in 2007, optimal production systems for rice allowed rice farmers in China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea to harvest six tons of palay per hectare compared to slightly less than four tons per hectare for the Philippines. The technology is out there to dramatically improve yields and there is a vibrant global industry that is investing millions of dollars a day to make the technology better, safer and more readily available all the time. Aside from putting the food on our table everyday, agriculture is a powerful driver of rural progress. In 2008 agriculture employed 34 percent of the Philippine population directly or indirectly and accounted for 15 percent of GDP . When farmers have access to appropriate technology they are more productive and more profitable in a sustainable way and their children can get better education. This supports the national agenda of rural development and poverty alleviation. It also provides a stable foundation for national economic growth. One of the challenges our industry faces today is in communicating the strong benefits it brings to society. Until recently, many people took for granted that food will be available whenever they wanted it at relatively affordable prices. It took the global food shortages of 2008 that incited riots in some countries to wake people up to the realization that agriculture has been neglected and needs their renewed involvement and support. As an industry, we can do our part by being ambassadors to the influential people and policymakers we meet and in the communities we live in. We can confidently share with them our role in addressing these pressing challenges and by advocating a factual, science-based approach to meeting our food needs. The answer lies not in planting in bigger tracts of land but in using the current farmed land wisely. And we can emphasize that we are a responsible, well-established industry that stewards its products from inception to proper use by growers to disposal after use. I have been fortunate to have worked in many parts of the world in this industry before coming to the Philippines. I have seen how modern agricultural techniques can change lives for the better in rural communities and how they help sustain societies. I sincerely believe that by using the same science based approach and by engaging stakeholders in the Philippines, we, too, will successfully confront the challenges of the future. 7


Dr. Clive James

More small farmers shifting to biotech corn Number swells to 250,000 last year from 175,000 in 2008

N

o less than 250,000 small Filipino farmers have shifted to the cultivation of Bacillus thuringiensis-herbicide tolerant (Bt-HT) corn last year, up from 175,000 in 2008. The numbers, according to Clive James of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA), show an increasing rate of acceptance for Bt-HT corn since it was approved by regulatory authorities for commercialization in 2003. This development is consistent with the global trend, with nearly all countries showing increases in the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) corn. James, founder and chairman of ISAAA, said in a seminar billed “Global Overview of Biotech/GM Crops 2009: Current Status, Impact and Future Prospects� held at the Dusit Thani Manila Hotel in Makati City on March 1 that last year, the area planted to Bt corn grew to 490,000 hectares, with many of the cultivators small holders who devote two hectares to the crop. The figure represents a jump in hectarage from 350,000 hectares in 2008. 8

46 percent of the total global hectarage devoted to biotech crops were in developing countries and there is a big chance that they could surpass the hectarage in industrial countries by 2015, when all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are supposed to be achieved. Global expansion

Not only Filipino farmers but also small cultivators in many countries are shifting to Bt corn and other GM varieties, with biotech corn representing more than 25 percent of the total 158 million hectares devoted to the crop globally.

Moreover, 46 percent of the total global hectarage devoted to biotech crops were in developing countries and there is a big chance that they could surpass the hectarage in industrial countries by 2015, when all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are supposed to be achieved. Spain grows practically 80 percent of all the Bt corn in the European Union (EU) and the adoption rate has been maintained at 22 percent. China itself has set the tone for increased Bt corn production when it allowed the adoption of GM corn, particularly phytase maize, which provides swine with more phosphorous and less phosphate that is pollutive. China has a swine herd of 500 million, which is half of the global swine population.

Preferred by farmers

“Notably, the area occupied by the stacked traits of Bt HT corn is 338,000 hectares, compared to only 200,000 in 2008, up by a substantial


UPLB savant pushes crop biofortification to meet six of country’s millennium dev’t goals A

leading Filipino nutritionist is backing crop biofortification to achieve six of the country’s eight objectives under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Dr. Corazon Barba of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) said the country’s drive to improve nutrition, reduce poverty and hunger rates and raise rural incomes can be met through biofortification. Micronutrients are essential to growth, health and wellness of all, particularly children and women, she said. Deficiency in micronutrients is a global problem, contributing to world’s widespread malnutrition and high rate of children and women’s mortality. Crop biofortification is a strategy employed by agricultural research institutions to utilize genetic modification (GM) of crops to enhance levels of essential micronutrient. The potentials and safety issues of biofortified crops to address micronutrient deficiencies was the focus of a symposium held last January 18, 2010 at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Studies and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) in Los Baños, Laguna.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization-World Food Programme (WHO-WFP) estimate that more than two billion people in the world are deficient in Vitamin A, iodine, iron or zinc, with most of them lacking more than one of these micronutrients. “Six out of the eight objectives in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are related to micronutrient deficiency. And, together with conventional interventions, such as supplementation and industrial fortification, biofortification of crops with essential micronutrients could greatly contribute in the attainment of these MDGs,” Barba believes. Dr. Randy Hautea of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) also trusts that biofortification can help in alleviating global malnutrition. During the symposium, Dr. Gerard Barry, Golden Rice Network Coordinator of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), revealed the current biofortification initiatives in rice for micronutrients Vitamin A, iron, and zinc. He said pro-Vitamin A Golden Rice is considered to be in most advanced

69 percent and reflecting the preference of farmers for stacked traits and the superior benefits they offer over single traits,” James said of Bt corn developments in the Philippines. “This shift in the farmers’ preference from single trait corn to those with combined traits has been observed since their introduction in 2006. The total area planted to the single trait Bt corn was down by more than 32 percent in 2009, equivalent to 54,000 hectares compared to last year’s 80,000 hectares,” he added. HT corn was planted on 98,000 hectares in 2009, an increase of about 40 percent from 2008 and almost equivalent to the area planted in 2007, Clive revealed. On the average, the expansion of hectarage for biotech corn was 5 percent annually since 2003, reaching 38 percent last year.

stage and is expected to reach commercial approval in the Philippines by 2012 or 2013. Like any other biotech/GM crops, biofortified crops, such as Golden Rice, are assessed for food and

environmental safety prior to commercial release. The Philippines has set up policies and regulatory framework that governs such assessment prior to commercial use. The symposium was

Approved for commercialization

Thus far, five biotech corn varieties have been approved for commercial cultivation in the Philippines. These are: MONB10 for insect resistance, approved in 2002 and renewed in 2007; NK603 for herbicide tolerance in 2005; Bt 11 for insect resistance in 2005; the stacked gene product of MONB10 and NK603 in 2005, and; the stacked trait for GA21 for herbicide tolerance in 2009. Apart from these biotech varieties, 19 stacked trait corn and cotton products have been approved for importation for food and feed, and the cotton for processing. James reported that a total of 49 biotech crops and products have been approved for propagation and processing in the Philippines.

organized by the UPLB Institute of Human Nutrition and Food in cooperation with the ISAAA, SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center and the Biotech Coalition of the Philippines (BCP).

Promising future

“The future acceptance prospects for biotech crops in the Philippines looks very promising, with products also being developed by national and international institutes,” he added. Among the significant products being developed are Golden Rice and biofortified rice, both of which are the subject of intense research by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). “The Golden Rice of IRRI was tested in advanced field trials in 2008. It is expected that field trials of the Golden Rice being developed by PhilRice will be planted soon,” James said. “In addition to the trait of pro-Vitamin A, the biotech rice of PhilRice, also dubbed as ‘3-in-1’ rice, incorporates resistance to tungro virus and to bacterial blight diseases,” he concluded. 9


US biotech advisor warns of global famine unless food yield increases T

he specter of famine is haunting the planet. US Department of Agriculture (USDA) senior advisor for biotechnology Jack A. Bobo has told officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) that a 27 percent decline in agricultural output by 2050 has been projected by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) due to aberrant weather. Bobo said this means that this early, agriculture officials worldwide must think of ways to overcome the impact of climate change and double of even triple productivity since a ballooning global population would increase the demand for food. The projection has been considered accurate by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),

For the US biotech expert, having access to private sector investments in research and development (R&D) and technology is crucial to climate change mitigation. which oversees efforts to boost the campaign to adapt to changing weather conditions. Children will be most vulnerable to famine, Bobo said, and in battling it, what is needed are agricultural productivity investments ranging from $7.1 billion to $7.3 billion to raise calorie consumption and offset the negative impacts of climate change on the health and well-being of children. For South Asia alone, the requirement is at least $1 billion for research and irrigation efficiency, Bobo added.

However, climate change-sensitive agriculture is the call of the day since agriculture and landchange are responsible for 31 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. “Tree burning and decomposition contribute to GHG emissions. Deforestation contributes to soil erosion, which reduces agricultural productivity,” he said. Deforestation experts say more than 80 percent of the world’s forests, where 80 percent of life on earth

US Department of Agriculture senior adviser on biotechnology Jack A. Bobo

10

can be found, has been destroyed. “Soil degradation has reduced agricultural productivity by 13 percent in the past 50 years especially in Central America and Africa. Each year, 12 million hectares – enough land to grow 20 million tons of grain and an area the size of Greece – are lost to desertification which leads to accelerated soil erosion,” Bobo stressed. The impending water crisis is also a big concern since agriculture accounts for 70 percent of freshwater use worldwide. “Competition with cities and other sectors such as mining for water will grow over time. In 20 years, about twothirds of global population will live in cities,” he revealed. Bobo advocated an appropriate climate policy, investment in research and

development (R&D) and technology from both the private and public sectors. “Issues such as food safety, food security, and drought surround every major policy issue when tackling climate change but, if we will notice, 90 percent of policy on climate change is about energy. Climate policy should take into account the need to support global food security by promoting synergy between food security research and climate mitigation and adaptation research,” he said. “Recent trends in both public and private energy funding indicate that the role of ‘technology push’ in reducing GHG emissions is often overvalued and may not be fully understood. Ultimately, it is only by creating a demand-pull market rather than supply-push that technological development, learning from experience, can develop advantageous economies of scale in production and related cost reductions can result,” Bobo noted. He champions funding for agricultural technology to reduce inputs that contribute to GHGs, saying this benefits the farmer and the consumer at the same time. “Farmers want, and are willing to pay for new technologies that reduce inputs as this increases income or lead to reduce cost. As a result, the environment and the public receive a benefit at no additional cost,” he argued. Moreover, Bobo stressed the importance of investments in agricultural research which will deliver high rates return in all regions of the world. He batted for reduced fertilizer use, drought tolerance, increasing yield gains, plant variety protection and patents.


CropLife embarks on training of Benguet farmers, health workers C

ropLife Philippines is undertaking a two-pronged program in Benguet to train farmers and barangay health workers in the country’s largest vegetable producing province. It will be undertaken in collaboration with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, other pesticide industry associations, the provincial government and the different local government units down to concerned barangays. The program was developed in response to the need for comprehensive pesticide management and integrated pest management practices among vegetable farmers. A program for barangay health workers was also developed to address misuse of agrochemical products, including cases of intentional poisoning. Benguet farmers will be trained on the proper use and handling of agrochemicals, including the proper use and maintenance of sprayers, proper storage and use of storage boxes under lock and key, and management of empty containers. Audiovisual presentations, and discussions on best practices will be used in the farmers’ training sessions. Medical experts, in cooperation with local government units, will train barangay health workers in identifying symptoms and emergency management/first aid treatment of poisoning cases with actual demonstration. This is to enable health workers especially in far-flung areas to undertake proper emergency management of poisoning cases before victims are brought to proper medical facility. Among the collateral materials to be distributed in the process are storage boxes for farmers, posters on first aid tips (What to do in case of pesticide poisoning) which islike a decision tree to guide barangay health workers on what steps to follow in case of pesticide poisoning, emergency kits (containing activated charcoal and other paraphernalia) to be kept in but made readily available from barangay offices in case of poisoning emergencies.

FIRST AID TIPS

WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF PESTICIDE POISONING

CALL FOR MEDICAL HELP:

ON REACHING THE PATIENT: -

+

Get medical help as quickly as possible Observe carefully Keep calm - reassure patient Avoid any risk to yourself

HOW DID POISONING OCCUR? If it is on skin or was inhaled

If it is swallowed NO

Is patient breathing?

YES Check product label for ¿UVW$LGLQVWUXFWLRQV

Does label recommend making patient vomit?

YES

Clear airways. Give DUWL¿FLDOUHVSLUDWLRQ Monitor breathing closely

Move away from contamination

YES

NO NOLABEL LABEL NO- OR - OR AVAILABLE NOT AVAILABLE

NO

Is pesticide in eyes?

YES Is the clinic or hospital more than 1 hour away?

YES

NO

Is patient breathing?

NO

YES Is patient conscious?

Is patient still in contact with pesticide source?

Clear airways. Give DUWL¿FLDOUHVSLUDWLRQ Monitor breathing closely

YES NO

NO Wash out eyes with plenty of clean water for at least 15 mins.

DO NOT induce vomiting

Remove any contaminated clothes and wash skin

Induce vomiting

Place patient in recovery position and monitor breathing closely* The mouth is downward so that vomit can drain from the patient. * -- The chin is well up from the chest to keep the epiglottis open. - The chest is not pressed to the ground. - Arms and legs are locked to stabilize the position of the patient.

Is the patient..?

HAVING FITS AND CONVULSIONS? Remove all dangerous objects from all around patient. Do not forcibly restrain

Too hot?

Sponge with cold water

Too cold?

Keep covered with blanket, coat, etc.

11


Pan Asia Farmers Exchange Program 2010 wins more adherents for biotech crops T

he Pan Asia Farmers Exchange Program 2010 (FX2010) sponsored by the Biotech Coalition of the Philippines (BCP), CropLife Philippines and CropLife Asia from March 22 to 27 succeeded in winning more adherents to the cultivation of biotech crops and science-based agriculture. FX2010 allowed 45 agricultural stakeholders from eight countries the chance to see for themselves how biotech crops are cultivated and managed in several farms in Central Luzon. Now on its fourth year, the program was organized to introduce Asian farmers to sciencebased agriculture that promotes better practices, higher yields and improved use of inputs. The biggest delegation to this year’s program came from Indonesia, with 14 participants, followed by 10 from the Philippines, eight from Taiwan, seven from South Korea, six from Thailand, five from India and four from Vietnam. China had only one delegate. All the participants were billeted at the Linden Suites in Ortigas Center. Delegates arrived on March 22 and were treated to a welcome dinner and briefings in the same hotel. The first session was a seminar on biotechnology and biosafety the following day, with Simeon Cuyson, executive director of CropLife Philippines opening the program in the morning and Sonny Tababa, biotechnology affairs director of CropLife Asia providing the background on the program and overview of the activities for the next five days. Merle Palacpac, vice chairwoman of the Biotech Core Team of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) also welcomed the delegates on behalf of the Department of Agriculture (DA). Dr. Antonio Alfonso, a plant breeder at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), provided an overview of biotechnology and how it could revolutionalize crop production and enhance food security all over the globe. Godfrey Ramon, BCP Science and Technology policy specialist,

Farmers Exchange Program 2010 participants in IRRI.

Farmers Exchange Program 2010 participants in a Bt corn plantation.

discussed the history of biotech crops and how farmers worldwide had been convinced about the necessity of cultivating them. The morning session proved to be enlightening as the participants engaged in a freewheeling discussion about biotechnology and how it could do wonders for hundreds of millions of people suffering from hunger and misery. For her part, Irma Brul of the secretariat of the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) talked about the Philippine Biosafety Framework. Rosalie Ellasus, a biotech corn farmer and also an integrated pest management (IPM) farmer-coordinator, provided all the participants the lessons she learned in cultivating Bacillus thuringiensis

(Bt) corn and how it boosted her income. The FX2010 participants visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on March 24 and met with Dr. Gerard Barry, head of the Intellectual Property Management Unit and program leaderrice and human health coordinator of the Golden Rice Network. Barry gave an exhaustive presentation on rice biotechnology for food security, rural development and poverty alleviation. Delegates also visited the Golden Rice nurseries in IRRI and discussed how the variety is being developed with Dr. Parminder Virk of the Plant Breeding Genetics and Biotechnology (PBGB) and Partha Sarathi Biswas.

At the University of the Philippines Los Banos Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB), participants attended seminars on Bt eggplant and PPRV-resistant papaya, both of which are being developed by UPLB scientists. On March 25, the FX2010 delegates traveled to Moncada, Tarlac to see a Bt corn farm and motored to Concepcion, Tarlac for a visit to another Bt corn farm. By late afternoon, they went to a farm devoted to the same type of corn strain. At the Linden Suites the following day, the delegates were treated by Dr. Leonardo Gonzales to a general discussion on the situation of biotech corn in the Philippines, and how it improved farmers’ incomes through increased yield and less application of agricultural inputs. All the delegates were also given copies of “Modern Biotechnology and Agriculture” by Dr. Gonzales, who also chairs Strive Foundation. The last speaker for FX2010 was Dr. Nina Gloriani, dean of the College of Public Health of the University of the Philippines in Manila (UP Manila), who has been championing biotechnology in agriculture and even pharmaceuticals. All the delegates were asked to evaluate the program during the final session even as all the foreign participants talked about the knowledge they derived from the six-day program.


harvest no. 2