MAIDEN ISSUE • NOVEMBER 2009
Rebound of rice industry looms
Shall we allow science to take a backseat?
GM rice to lead to higher production of nutritious grain
RICE IS the most political of all agricultural commodities in the country. Nurtured in the archipelago for thousands of years, rice comes in many strains, from the Neolithic varieties still grown in the uplands of the Cordillera and the mountain ranges of South Cotabato, particularly in Lake Sebu, and in the fastnesses of the Sierra Madre, the grain forms the nucleus of agricultural economy. They come in a variety of colors, from the ancient black rice beloved of Chinese emperors and mandarins, to the red and violet well-liked by indigenous communities to the glutinous rice that is the centerpiece of Filipino kakanin, rice (scientific name: Oryza sativa) is a weed that had been tamed to produce the carbohydrate-laden grain central to Asian diets. Believed to have been developed first as a food item in the Indian sub-continent, rice has long been associated with myths and legends, and is oftentimes seen as a sign of fertility and good fortune, thrown at bride and groom during weddings and preferred as gift for those set to sail. Rice is kept in good times in preparation for the bad times, and this explains why farmers don’t sell all of their produce, with estimates showing that farmers keep 25 percent of their harvest in rice surplus provinces as guarantee that come hell or high water, they would have something to cook and eat. Herculano “Joji” Co, president of the Philippine Association of Grains Associations (Philcongrains), is enamored with rice and rightly so since he is at the helm of businessmen who buy palay, mill them and sell them in a market that has become as volatile as ever, and the battering received by 34 Luzon provinces has made him worried about the fate of grain producers as well as the consumers. The fate of traders like him lies on the producers since they buy domestically and do not own a single hectare of land, making them dependent on stable supply to make their rice mills hum with activity. Turn to page 3
CropLife helps rehab New ways to benefit of Benguet farms producers of mangoes
Retrieving empty pesticide bottles
BENGUET Governor Nestor Fongwan has welcomed the offer of CropLife Philippines, and IFARM, its partner-NGO advocating science-based agriculture, to help rehabilitate farms destroyed by typhoon Pepeng. CropLife executive director Simeon Cuyson and IFARM officers made the offer as they delivered Tshirts and canned goods from membercompanies to support the provincial
CropLife helps rehab of Benguet farms government’s relief efforts. The turnover was held at the provincial capitol in La Trinidad last October 28, 2009. CropLife donated groceries, Triple Rinse, Sinochem, Jardine, Aldiz Polo, BCS, BASF and Syngenta T-shirts. It also gave away Prochem soap and Fendona-BASF insecticide. Lolit Bentres, chief of the Office of Provincial Agriculturist, placed the area damaged at 4,384
Governor Nestor Fongwan (right) receives foodstuff and clothes from Sim Cuyson, Executive Director of CropLife Philippines, Inc. for the victims of Typhoon Pepeng. The governor later met with officials of Croplife and IFARM.
hectares and the number of affected farmers at 4,597 as of October 20, 2009. Estimated crop loss is valued at more than P270 million, according to the same consolidated report. Fongwan told CropLife and IFARM officers that their offer was timely since the provincial government 2
is set to terminate relief efforts and move on to rehabilitation soon. He added that East West Seeds and Allied, two private seed companies that operate in the province, have donated the first batch of seeds to replenish planting materials that the farmers lost due to floods and landslides. The proposed
rehabilitation program, entitled “Agbangon!,” is set to begin as soon as the consolidated reports are finalized and the necessary inputs and primary beneficiaries are identified by the provincial government and Bentres. Part of “Agbangon!” will be psycho-social trauma mitigation clinics for the affected farmers, start-up planting materials, credit facilitation for farm inputs like fertilizers and crop protection products and environmental stewardship and product stewardship programs based on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). The trauma mitiga-
tion effort not only targets farmers who need to get back on their feet but also volunteer relief workers and rescuers who were depressed by the devastation and their harrowing experiences while at work. “Agbangon!” seeks to provide a model for the private and public sectors to come together and cooperate in rehabilitating farms and putting the farmers back in good shape. The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) as well as private seed companies will be tapped for start-up planting materials, the Department of Envi-
ronment and Natural Resources (DENR) for environmental stewardship expertise to help avert a repeat of the severe damage and the farm inputs industries for support with necessary revival products and mechanisms.
Fongwan told CropLife and IFARM officers that their offer was timely since the provincial government is set to terminate relief efforts and move on to rehabilitation soon.
Rebound of rice industry looms
From page 1
With a wide swath of Luzon farms flooded, Co said grain prices have taken a beating, and the low prices do not guarantee farmers could recoup their investments. Millers were also hit, with warehouse upon warehouse of stored grain inundated. At best, he said, traders like him could earn P20 neat per sack and they have to move stocks quickly to earn more. There is no sense in storing grain in expectation of higher prices, he admitted, since you cannot store rice for a year. Co and his colleagues believe rice security is an ideal for this country but others like him are not enamored with excessive importations that actually stunt creativity, scientific advances in rice research and discourage higher output by farmers who could actually produce more. He may be right, since no less than the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) says that there is a 75 percent return on investment in rice in the country. Rice provides 86 percent of all the caloric requirements of Filipinos, says PhilRice, and this makes the crop the most important element in Philippine agriculture. PhilRice says the higher return can be achieved through the adoption of modern varieties – especially high-quality certified inbred and hybrid seed – along with new machines, crop management practices, improvement of farm infrastructure and farmto-market roads. Co believes in the potential of the industry
as much as PhilRice hectare. does, and insists that Thelma F. Padolina, better milling equipment national coordinator of and post-harvest the National Cooperative Testing for Rice who facilities would do the trick. At best, he said, now heads PhilRice’s only 63 percent of the Plant Breeding and palay processed by rice Biotechnology Division, mills end up as rice. admits that despite this breakthrough, they have Post-harvest losses have been pegged at 10 not succeeded in variety used as check percent by the Departmarketing the improved during the wet season, ment of Agriculture Wagwag variety since especially under direct (DA) but observers on 2004. wet seeded culture. Even IR64 took the ground say it is “But to sustain much higher. about 10 years before it these high yielding Nonetheless, became commercially varieties, we must also scientists lament that successful in the retail (ensure) resistance to despite this evidence of market. However, they are confident the biotech pests and diseases and, high return, good and adequate funding for varieties would find their of course, better grain rice research and niche. “The merit of the quality,” Padolina explains. development (R&D) has variety is really in its There is been wanting. Though biofortification, scientists another bright spot PhilRice are developing GR varieties that in the rice has comcontain beta-carotene, which the market, one mercialized human body converts into vitamin A. that has three been biotech rice genetically engineered characteristics,” she varieties. These biotech to solve the universal derived varieties passed says. problem of Vitamin A standards in terms of Wagwag is not yet deficiency. yield performance resistant to tungro, the It is not just called most damaging viral nationwide, resistance the Golden Rice (GR) disease of rice characto pests and diseases, because of its yellow to milling and eating terized by its yellow to orange-colored kernel, quality and other traits orange mottled leaves, but GR promises to be sought by farmers, she adds. However, this the solution to Vitamin can be planted in areas millers and consumers. A-deficiency, which is where tungro is not a Take the case of the suffered by a chunk of improved Wagwag. problem. the global population. Even with excellent Two other new WHO estimates that the eating quality, the biotech varieties – the deficiency is the reason NSIC Rc 142 (Tubigan original variety was 7) and the NSIC Rc 154 why 250,000 to very tall, matured late 500.000 children go and was susceptible to (Tubigan 11), which blind annually. pests. Using anther have been released in Though culture, a technique 2006 and 2007, respecbiofortification, scienused to generate genetic tively, have shown tists are developing GR resistance to bacterial variability and shorten varieties that contain the breeding period, the leaf blight, which is beta-carotene, which PhilRice team led by Dr. particularly serious the human body Nenita Desamero during the wet season. converts into vitamin A. Tubigan 7 also improved Wagwag. Pregnant women and showed intermediate From its six to seven children would be the months maturity, resistance to sheath prime beneficiaries of Wagwag can now be blight, insect green this modern-day harvested within 110 leafhopper, yellow stem agricultural scienceborer and brown plant days and yield five tons based research. hopper. It also matures per hectare and can be When Dr. Antonio planted through direct early at 105 days with a Alfonso was tapped to height of 85 cm and seeding. The traditional head the local research yields by 32 percent strain yields between of the Golden Rice in higher than current one and three tons per
2004, they decided to include other important traits particularly the plant’s inherent capability to ward off the dreaded plant diseases known as tungro and bacterial leaf blight (BLB). “The presence of beta-carotene in the rice grain has not much advantage if we were to encourage farmers to plant them. Yes, they stand to benefit nutritionally since many farmers also consume their produce. However, the greatest benefit would go to the general consumers because it would help them with their Vitamin A needs,” he says. “But by adding other agronomic traits that will increase grain yield and income, we hope that the farmers will be encouraged to plant golden rice.” Alfonso, a Cornelltrained plant biologist, says they have initially used the GR1 (in the US rice variety Cocodrie), which contained up to 8 micrograms of betacarotene per gram of polished grains for the possible 3-in-1 variety. Since the prototype golden rice was developed in 2000, new lines with higher betacarotene contents have actually been generated. In Golden Rice, two genes were inserted into the rice genome by genetic engineering to account for two
inactive genes in the rice grain, leading to the production and accumulation of betacarotene in the endosperm. The intensity of the golden color is an indicator of the concentration of the beta-carotene in the endorsperm. GR breeding by national programs is overseen by the ProVitaMinRice Consortium (PVMRC), the Golden Rice Network and the Humanitarian Board. Only one GR event is targeted as donor for all the member-countries, mainly in Asia, to minimize cost and facilitate compliance to biosafety regulations. PVMRC, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is also looking at the GR being fortified with Vitamin E and improving its protein profile by increasing its lysine content, and increasing its iron and zinc content. Alfonso says they are currently reviewing their timeline for commercial release considering the time needed for breeding GR varieties, selecting the final event to be used, and generating biosafety data before actual field testing. With GR, GM varieties and other hardy strains set to enter the rice production stream, scientists are sanguine in their belief that the market is in for as rebound, hopefully to squelch the fears of Co and millions of farmers that they are doomed to the cycle of scarcity begetting scarcity because of willy-nilly policy options like uncontrolled rice importations. 3
FOCUS ON BIOTECHNOLOGY
Experts talk on how science can revitalize Philippine agriculture
THE COUNTRY has been committed to promote modern biotechnology for the last decade or so and has been slowly but surely working to redeem that vow and make the Philippines a major player in biotech research and development. Not only has the Arroyo administration decreed the annual biotechnology week be celebrated every November; it has also implemented the strict biosafety standards and various protocols covering the development of agricultural biotechnology products. The Department of Agriculture (DA) has pushed the development of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn herbicide-resistant corn, with production areas expanding from only 100 hectares in 2003 to 400,000 hectares last year. No other genetically modified (GM) crop has enjoyed as much acceptance as Bt corn. These developments augur well for agricultural biotechnology as a boon to farmers and other indirect workers as it increases their incomes and provides 4
the livestock industry with alternatives to imported feeds. The strict standards set by National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) has made it possible for Filipino scientists to know precisely how they would go about the business of improving the quality and genetic make-up of various crops without any considerable risks to humans and the environment. Modern biotechnology covers the processes involved in developing better quality crops and animals, more durable agricultural commodities and improved output. These developments are a great leap from traditional biotechnology, which covers fermentation that led to the production of wine more than 6,000 years ago. Microorganisms were the first biotechnology workhorses. Traditional biotechnology is still being applied universally, from food production to processing, biomedical products like medicines and vaccines and in industry, where cleaning agents are in demand.
New avenues Successes in laboratory work and theoretical scientific ventures have made it possible to open new avenues for biotechnology, ranging from gene splicing or genetic engineering, the use of protoplast fusion, the application of DNA markers in establishing paternity, solving crimes, diagnosing diseases, plant breeding, studying evolution and the application of high-technology means as organ and tissue culture. On the whole, the country is still most comfortable with traditional biotechnology, with their applications seen day-to-day and modern biotechnology still limited to the development of cash crops like corn, cotton, soybeans and canola. Similarly, biotechnology applications in the biomedical field only cover 25 percent of the total value of medicines. Currently, the Philippines is also trying to work assiduously in bioenergy, with government itself engaged in promoting the development of biofuel feedstock from corn, sugarcane, coconut, jatropha, sorghum,
Dr. Eufemio Rasco
cassava and others. The law that required rising ethanol content in petroleum products was a good development for the biofuel market as it showed the country is serious in reducing the use of fossil fuels that are being depleted at an alarming rate.
Pinoy biotech In the next three years, a number of GM crops and fruits are being lined up for commercial release, with the papaya ringspot virus-resistant GM papaya as the first to be propagated. Apart from papaya, which has enormous possibilities for the natural ingredients market, work is being undertaken for abaca, cotton and others. GM papaya will have a longer shelf life even as genetic research is being undertaken to develop a strain that would resist diseases that
normally decimate nearly half of the papaya grown in larger farms. The private sector is also doing some work on biotechnology, particularly on multiple stacked genes in corn. As far as the University of the Philippines-Mindanao (UPMin) is concerned, Dr. Eufemio Rasco says the work is concentrated on the micropropagation of neglected crops like sago and pitcher plant, the production of biofertilizer from rhizobacteria found in sago, and DNA markers for the Philippine eagle, banana and durian, as well as the industrial processing of sago to produce starch and alcohol. UPMin has also been involved in testing GM corn since 2003, when its propagation in the country was approved. The university is working on developing new bio-
technological process using neglected materials in bid to generate knowledge and deepen our understanding and practice of genetic engineering. Nepenthes holds promise not only as an ornamental but as a unique â€œplant-animal hybridâ€? that can be a potential as a platform for genetic engineering. It is an endangered species endemic to the Philippines. Thus far, UPMin has made headway in seed propagation, hydropriming and understanding the biology of flowering and seed cultivation, in vitro cutting propagation, plant growing media, acclimatization, and the selling of in vitro seedlings and clones. In the near future, UPMin believes it can develop the industrial scale propagation and use of the pitcher plant and sago, then later on nipa and Caryota.
Work is still at the exploratory stage with funding commitment from the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) even as fullblown research is starting this year. The university is involved in tissue culture as even as it continues to breed nepenthes and supply commercial nursery operators. These nurseries, in turn, provide end users with nepenthes. Elsewhere in the country, biotechnologists from UP and other universities have been undertaking work on
deriving biofuels from aquatic resources, while others have started finding cosmetic applications from marine products, with some scientists actually producing some items for sale in the market. Rice straws and other organic materials like wood are also being analyzed to determine if they can be viable sources of biofuel and initial results are encouraging. Originally undertaken in the US, work on this field is being done here.
Dr. Saturnina Halos (right) and IFARM Chair Dr. Calixto Protacio (below).
It is hoped that biotechnology research and development (R&D) would advance steadily as the country strives to increase agricultural output and raise the incomes of farmers.
Thinking green It is not really farfetched to think that anything green can produce fuel and the earlier we plunge into serious work in this regard, the better chances we have to craft a feasible and viable renewable energy sources. Many colleagues also pay attention to current concerns about the role of agricultural biotechnology products in enhancing environmental integrity, reducing global warming and reversing climate change in the long haul. Dr. Saturnina C. Halos has dwelled on the positive impact of biotechnology in this direction. She is the chairman of the DABiotechnology Advisory Team (DA-BAT). Dr. Calixto M. Protacio of the Crop Science Cluster of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) has written about the possibility of increasing the lauric acid content of coconuts following the development of GM canola using a gene from the California bay tree and another gene from coconut to increase such content in rapeseed. Due to this breakthrough, rapeseed produces 60 percent lauric acid from zero, posing a threat to coconut oil that is firmly in control of 2 percent to 3 percent of the oil and fatty acids market. By increasing the lauric acid content of coconut oil, it is expected to make a rebound and regain its market share. Halos says GM crops offer a positive contribution to environmental defense, and quoting reports from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), adds: “Reducing pesticide use is simpli-
fied with farmers planting purposely designed GM crops. Bt crops, for example, were purposely developed to avoid the application of too much insecticides whereas herbicide-tolerant crops to avoid the use of a cocktail of chemical herbicides. The success of this option is borne by the recent finding that use of pesticides has been reduced by 286 million kilos in the 10 years (1996-2006) that GM crops have been planted with a 15.4 percent reduction in the environmental impact associated with insecticide and herbicide use. Over half of the environmental benefits associated with lower insecticide and herbicide use has been in developing countries (52 percent). A corresponding decrease in carbon emission reduction has been found. GM crops contribute to a reduction in fuel use due to less-frequent herbicide or insecticide applications and a reduction in the energy use in soil cultivation. Reduced soil cultivation is associated with herbicide tolerant crops.” ISAAA also reported that three years ago, the permanent carbon dioxide savings from reduced fuel use associated with GM crops was 1.2 billion kilos globally. It is like removing 540,000 cars from the road for a year, she adds. It is hoped that biotechnology research and development (R&D) would advance steadily as the country strives to increase agricultural output and raise the incomes of farmers. Biotechnological progress should redound to better lives for millions of fellow citizens. For his part, UPLB Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco says biotech-
nology is a big boost to protect the environment and agricultural scientists have already identified a fungus that feeds on plastics and degrades it back to its natural elements quickly. “Though far from fully developed, the idea is undergoing study – how to propagate the fungus to be economically viable, how to find out what hazards it may, in turn, produce, how to make it acceptable to the public, and eventually how to make the fungus available to the public for use. In short, we now turn to the process of commercialization,” Velasco says. Concerns about propagation, quality and costs are the only issues left to be resolved before this potentially environment-saving technology can be disseminated fruitfully. “Biotechnology can assure us of a certain control in quality and costs among natural, living things. This is what biotechnology is really about. It is the new economic revolution at its birth. Born in nature’s hands, but helped by man and his science,” he adds.
New economic revolution For starters, Velasco believes firmly that biotechnological work in the Philippines should focus on products with distinct agricultural applications. To him, the first is the development of microbial fertilizers. “With oil–based fertilizers on their way out, both in availability and costs, biofertilizers should be further developed for widespread farm use to replace expensive, and usually imported,
Turn to page 8 5
CropLife and our corporate social responsibility
Rice for every
By FLORENCE B. VASQUEZ President, CropLife Philippines, Inc.
ROPLIFE is proud to present this maiden issue of Harvest, a newsletter we are publishing in partnership with our partner-NGO, IFARM, to advocate sciencebased agriculture. It is also very appropriate that this maiden launch coincides with the Rice Awareness and the National Biotechnology Month of November. Rice underlines the importance of agriculture in our lives -on our dining tables, in our hearts. Biotechnology, on the other hand, promises better yields in our harvest as we modernize agriculture in the country. Since January of this year, we have partnered hand-in-hand with IFARM to communicate a better understanding of science-based agriculture, which is really about taking care of people. Though our companies have been dedicated to helping the farmers and the farms for years, they have hardly gotten to know us as people. Sometimes the public will forget that we have chosen to be in this business to give them good quality, bountiful food at prices they can afford. Of course, we also know that the farmers will not keep to their farms if we do not help them produce profitably. And so, that’s what we do. Out in the field, it is heartening to note that our products have helped keep crops healthy and protected, providing farmers income so that the food they grow can get to the urban tables of people who are into other things and can no longer grow their own food. It is a good, working system. In Davao, we have conducted a series of four conferences that sought to give the people of Mindanao a glimpse of what science could help agriculture with – the new trends, technologies and discoveries that could generate even greater productivity in the farms. Mindanao has steadily become a major food source for the whole country on top of being a major player in agricultural exports. Bringing in experts from government agencies and the private sector, we launched with a conference on “Facing the Challenges and Opportunities in Sustainable Agriculture” in Davao City. In March, a second conference, this time focused on the academe, followed at the University of the Philippines in Mintal, Davao City. In April we conducted a workshop-seminar on Aerial Spraying in Tagum City, where the SAFE (Science-based Agriculture for Farm Enhancement) advocacy was launched, giving birth to the www.safepinoy.com website. This was followed by a forum-tour set in a banana plantation resort to expose members of the media to how aerial spraying really works. This helped newsmen grasp how harmless aerial spraying really is to people, mist or not, and how truly efficient it is compared to ground methods. In Benguet, we have also initiated a CSR program on waste container stewardship and in the dark aftermath of typhoon Pepeng, we donated a truckload of emergency food and goods and will soon embark on a rehabilitation start-up program of the poor farmers who have lost all in the storm and flood. Called “Agbangon!” meaning “rise!” in the vernacular, the program will be under the office of Gov. Nestor Fongwan of Benguet and is scheduled to start this month. “Agbangon!” comes with an adopt-a-barangay program of rehabilitation start-ups that, with the support of our member-companies, will get Benguet back on its feet soon as the vegetable capital of the country once again, filling Filipino tables with high-quality, nutritious food once more. All in all, it has been a good but challenging year for making people understand that our industry is about supporting life and making it better, more fulfilling, more healthy and bountiful for as many people as we can. Our lives have been committed to this for a long time. Our scientists are sworn to this. Under our new CSR thrusts, we hope we can help make our publics realize this. 6
ATIONAL interest dictates that the country must strive not only to ensure adequate rice output; it requires as well that the nation be armed with ample stocks to respond to calamities that regularly visit the archipelago. On this score, much needs to be done and the recent food crisis that saw the price of the staple in the world market rise sky high must compel policymakers not to give lip service to a domestic food industry that is sufficient unto itself. Rising food prices have become the regime worldwide and this should adequately illustrate the crying need to design a comprehensive food program that gives principal emphasis on rice sufficiency. Rice provides 86 percent of the caloric needs of the population and for this reason it is not only a political commodity but a strategic commodity. Government cannot crow about its complete dependence on rice imports to answer the demand for the cereal. The hesitation of rice exporting countries to part with their stocks is an indication that they, too, are concerned with beefing up their inventories. No doubt, these countries are stocking up on the staple since the total volume of grain available in the world market had been reduced from 7 percent of the output to only 3 percent. China and India are not about ready to let loose millions of tons of rice to satisfy the demand. They have mouths to feed than us and policy dictates that they have to have the stocks to counter shortages. Thus, we cannot continue to be world’s largest rice importer even if government officially admits that the total deficit is only 10 percent. We need to have a more efficient system to get more palay per hectare and more grain during milling. It is sad to note that antiquated milling equipment could only secure 63 percent of every sack of palay sent to the mills. Losing 37 percent of the grain is a lot of food wasted. Rice is important not only as food but also as medicine and apart from the thiamine and carbohydrates derived from it, some studies show that the staple actually possesses anti-cancer micronutrients. The order of the day is a massive shift in policy, casting aside unbridled importations that profit only Vietnamese and Thai farmers and some Indian middlemen. Domestic production must rise apace and the best way to do this is to emphasize strains that produce more, are more durable
Harvest is a bi-monthly publication of
CropLife Philippines, Inc. in partnership with the Initiative for Fa Resource Management (IFARM). Croplife headquarters is at Unit 5E MAPFRE Asian Condominium Cente Madrigal Business Park, Alabang, Muntinlupa City 1780. Telefax (+632) 772-3992 / (+632) 772-3993 / Cell N 3992 / (+63917) 838-3992. E-mail address : email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org. Editorial offices are located at IFARM, 2/F The Advocacy House, 8 Scout Chuatoco St., Roxas District, Qu (+632) 372-8560. For comments and editorial contributions, email at email@example.com. You may also www.safepinoy.com.
Simeon Cuyson, publisher • Joel C. Paredes and Cris Michelena, editors • Benjo Laygo, art director • coordinator and deskman • Beth Jazildo, business coordinator
Agriculture needs science advocates By CALIXTO PROTACIO, Ph.D. Chair, iFARM
and are not dependent on synthetic inputs. Hybrid varieties, which were developed through the years, have shown how rice can be profitable and feed millions, given the proper use of agriculture chemicals which are now moving towards “green” chemistry. Biotechnology is another area that can be developed to breed better strains that yield more and can confront the dire consequences of climate change. The opportunity to make use of science to provide food for the table and nutrients to combat diseases is here, thanks to biotechnology. The time to do all of these is now.
arm Advocacy and er, Acacia Avenue, No. (+63917) 824-
uezon City. Telefax o visit our website
CropLife Philippines, Inc. 2009 Officers and Board of Directors Florinda B. Vasquez, president • Toshiaki Shinohara, vice president • Jeremiah B. Macias, secretary • Victor V. Alpuerto, treasurer • Claro C. Arriola, director • Manuel B. Rondon, director • Simeon Cuyson, executive director
IFARM Board • Ian Go, editorial
Dr. Calixto Protacio, chair * Joel Paredes, president • Cris Michelena, managing director • Attorney Roberto Oliva, Dr. Renato Labadan, Floreño Solmerano, directors
HE RECENT ruling of the World Health Organization (WHO) finding a Department of Health (DOH) study on the effect of aerial spraying of fungicide on bananas as “inconclusive” reaffirms the important role science plays in our everyday lives. An important scientific organization, WHO packs enough clout to discredit the claims of a local study that aerial spraying was responsible for some health problems in a community in Davao. These claims partly contributed to the banning of aerial spraying in Davao City. This ban led to the abandonment of some plantations because early banana plantings were originally configured to be sprayed aerially. There are no roads that can be used for ground spraying. Consequently, production dipped for the $780-million export industry and many jobs were lost. Not only did productivity dip but the ban on aerial spraying in Davao City led to similar calls in other provinces. Fortunately, local leaders in other bananagrowing areas were more prudent and resisted such calls. The WHO ruling is a very welcome and significant statement of the value attached to conclusions arrived at through rigorous scientific methodology. It virtually heaped scorn on conclusions derived There are many ways by which we using can be advocates for science. One spurious methods. is by taking a stand on scientific The fact issues as exemplified by WHO. that WHO Make your voices heard. took a stand is well appreciated in this corner as it became an arbiter on a highly divisive issue. The local study was conducted by government personnel from the DOH who were supposed to be not biased and steeped in the scientific method. However, they allowed themselves to be hijacked by cause-oriented groups. Their credibility was high and who was there to tell that their methodology or conclusion was flawed? Fortunately, WHO came along as a disinterested third party to shed light on the issue. Local government officials can now resist calls for a ban on aerial spraying, safe in the knowledge that it has not been found to be harmful. One point for the science advocate! There are many ways by which we can be advocates for science. One is by taking a stand on scientific issues as exemplified by WHO. Make your voices heard. The other is to teach others how the scientific method can be applied to their everyday lives. There are many examples of “bad” or unsound science and they can be seen in hasty recommendations in comparing products without the requisite local control, replication and adequate sample size. Good science needs cultivation, and the rewards can readily be seen in agriculture in terms of improved crop yield from more efficient, stress-tolerant varieties and improved technologies that have brought us year-round supply of fruits, vegetables and meat. However, some groups that do not agree with how the business of agriculture is run threaten to limit the choices available to the farmer in growing his crop and livestock. It is time to voice out your concerns and be more assertive; show that your production methods are based on good, solid science. Be a science-based agriculture advocate! 7
Shall we allow science to take a backseat?
From page 12
they would only release the reports to DOH if requested by the latter. When informed about this, responsible DOH officials said they would request for the reports. They never did, purportedly in deference to a WHO-commissioned experts’ review which DOH and the study’s authors agreed to and requested after certain stakeholders, including CropLife, had earlier questioned the validity of the study. Indications are that the UP Manila reviewers have indeed found some serious flaws in the study. CropLife respects UP Manila’s decision not to release the peer review reports. But it is still our wish that the administrators of the University find it in their hearts to uphold the scientific integrity that they have sworn themselves to and voluntarily release the reports to help establish the validity of the conclusions of the DOH-commissioned study. On the WHO-commissioned experts’ review, our reliable feedback is that the experts’ conclusion is also that the study is not conclusive and the data generated could not support the recommendation to ban. However, to this date, nobody else, except perhaps the DOH Executive Committee, has seen the WHO report. The DOH Official Statement During the first week of Novem-
ber, the DOH, through its Executive Committee, finally issued its official statement, effectively bypassing the process of deliberation by the Interagency Committee on Environmental Health (IACEH). The official statement contained five recommendations, the last one invoking the precautionary principle and urging the Department of Agriculture to stop aerial spraying until proof of its safety is clearly established by the industry. A convenient escape from the fact that the DOH/PSCOT/NPMCC study is seriously flawed and inconclusive! It has become clear that the DOH leadership disregarded the conclusions of the WHO-commissioned experts and had made the decision to recommend banning of aerial spraying from the time that the study team submitted its report and the DOH staff, together with the principal authors, conducted the first external consultation in Davao early this year. All the consultations with its external stakeholders and all the meetings of the IACEH now appear to have been just a charade. Prayer For A Win-Win Solution The whole decision-making process is now complicated b politics. Aerial spraying is a health issue as much as it is an issue about
agriculture - about people’s rights to a decent life, about people’s freedom from hunger, about the very livelihood of people living in the banana growing provinces of Mindanao. But the health issue has been exaggerated beyond the realities on the ground. It is our hope that the health issue is resolved more on the basis of good science rather than out of political expediency. It is our hope that our government would take a balanced and broader view of the situation, and take a more cautious approach to its risk management decision making process. It might send the wrong signals and compromise the competitiveness of the banana industry in the global market and put the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people, and possibly peace and order in the banana-growing provinces in Mindanao at risk. It is our prayer that government explores all possibilities for a win-win solution. Why not consider the conduct of an independent study, with the protocol mutually agreed upon by all parties concerned, to validate the results of the DOH/ PSCOT/NPMCC study, even before any decision to stop aerial spraying is taken? And while this study is being done, why not have a rationaldiscussion on all the other four DOH recommendations and come to an agreement on how to address these recommendations? There is no perfect system. If there are gaps in the regulatorysystem and
Biotechnology is the wave of the future for Serrano and he insists it holds the key for the salvation of the country and its freedom from expensive food imports.
Experts talk... From page 5 fertilizers. These technologies are already available. But we have to support them with a focus and a commitment.” Next is the breeding of crops in response to global climate change. “With unpredictable weather and climate change upon us, some of which we brought about, some purely natural and irrevocable. There are new plant diseases these changes will bring about, and there will be leaching of products we have imposed on our environments. These are truths and these are facts. We have to be ready to contend and address them. The seeds have 8
been discovered. What we need to do is propagate and disperse them. Droughtresistant breeds, saline-resistant breeds, flood-resistant strains, we have them all today. If we do not propagate their use, they will be wasted,” he warns. Last is the breeding of crops to make use of marginal lands. “Even without climate change, we have not learned to use our marginal lands.” These are the lands that are not of the best quality, but can be made productive just the same. Our many years in research show us that there is a way to make them productive. We must find the crops
problems in implementation, let all agencies concernedaddress them proactively. FPA could, for example, initiate a reviewor re-registration process, starting with compounds which arecurrently under question. A tiered approach could be used, with theAG-Drift model as tier 1 in the risk assessment of a product’s driftprofile. This model has been peer- reviewed, accepted and approved by the U.S. EPA. Then, too, area-specific regulations, such as buffer zones and areas where only ground spraying should be used in banana plantations can be delineated and reviewed and proper corrective measures can be undertaken as necessary, monitored by concerned agencies and groups. We do not believe that rushing to ban aerial application is the solution. Resorting to ground spraying increases the risks of worker exposure as well as increases the use of water (a valuable resource)and possibly environmental contamination (somehow reduced with current aerial spraying technology). Even assuming that there is aviable organic alternative to chemical fungicides, there may still be aneed to apply it aerially as it is still the most costeffective method ofapplication. There are risks in anything and everything we do and in just aboutany product which we use. It is in being aware of these risks and managing them properly that is important. We are all as concerned as everybody else for the health of ourpeople and our environment .
that will make our farmers live and prosper. And we must find the way to make these crops available to our farmers in their most effective form,” Velasco declares. Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano, who chairs the DA Biotech
Program Steering Committee, believes that biotechnology is the cutting edge of the farm sector. What makes its potential more real than apparent is that the right regulatory framework has been set to produce better crops that yield more, possess
more nutrients and guarantee growers a better return on their investments. Serrano said the country must exploit its advantage in biotechnology to advance even as he admits that the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan might need to be
updated to improve the farm sector even if the Medium-term Philippine Development Plan (MPDP) already acts as the a platform for such policy. “The role of biotech is implicit in the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA). It even provides for a particular proportion of the budget to be allocated for biotech. So there’s a clear policy direction as well as allocation of resources for biotechnology. So far, implementation-wise, we’ve done the best that we can,” he adds. Biotechnology is the wave of the future for Serrano and he insists it holds the key for the salvation of the country and its freedom from expensive food imports.
DENR’s Primitivo Galinato Jr.
Industry backs sustainable agriculture in the Cordillera
THE CROP protection industry have joined hands with the working journalists in this upland province in a show of force for sustainable agriculture in the Cordilleras. Underlining corporate social responsibility, CropLife Philippines, Inc., Crop Protection Association of the Philippines (CPAP) and the PICMA, all associations of the manufacturers of agricultural chemical products in the country, sponsored a seminar that sought to untangle for communicators and journalists the confusion over what is sustainable agriculture and what is not. Regional Executive Director for CAR of the DENR Primitivo Galinato Jr later appealed on the need for an advocacy to help protect the Cordillera watershed
areas, citing the wanton encroachment of vegetable farms in the upland areas as a cause for alarm. “These farming activities might be of help economically to our farmers but it is not sustainable in the long run, for our ecosystems when destroyed will be very hard to bring back to its intended usage, that is, of being a watershed,” he said. Part of the problem, Galinato said is a local legislation in the area that presently “allows the issuance of tax declarations even in national parks.” Describing the Cordilleras as “the watershed cradle of northern Luzon, a giver and sustainer of life to our neighboring regions, we have 13 major watersheds that need to be protected and enhanced instead of being degraded,” he
added. The region’s total land area is 1,829,368 hectares with 1,549,909 designated as forest land area. This means that only 729,539 hectares remain with forest cover. There is a dire need to rehabilitate and reforest more than 481,491 hectares for the Cordilleras to have a more sustainable environment. The only mossy forests in the Cordilleras, bound by the triboundary of Mountain Province, Benguet and Ifugao, continue to be encroached upon by the so-called vegetable farmers who wantonly convert the forested areas into vegetable gardens without regard for the environmental degradation it entails. Should these environmentally harmful encroachments persist, it will soon affect the
region’s river systems, Galinato said. Rampant improper farming in the uplands will eventually cause erosion and siltation of the waterways, leading to a general lack of water that will adversely affect even the region’s role as the power generator of the area – they propel the turbines of our hydroelectric dams. This same general lack or lessening of water has begun to negatively affect lowland agricultural
Benguet Press Corps president Delmar Cariño
production. Due to the silted waterways, lowland harvests have begun tapering off in Pangasinan. The CAR-DENR is currently trying to curb vegetable garden encroachment and stop the further destruction of the remaining forest areas in the upland watershed areas. The CAR-DENR will also try to educate and inform the upland communities about the dangers these encroachments will bring. They are also embarking on an advocacy to promote semi-permanent crops like coffee in the watershed areas, even as inter-crops among the vegetables to further help stave off erosion and water run-offs. The CropLifeCPAP-PICMA teamup, in pursuing their corporate citizenship, is looking to support more production on the
limited areas now planted to help stave off even more encroachment on the slopes. Florence Vasquez, CropLife president, maintains that “more production on the nowexisting farms will hopefully keep the slopes intact by providing enough economic rewards to the farmers now without their having to expand their farmlands even more.” Jojo Alejar and Max Obusan, CPAP president and executive director respectively, add that “sustainable agriculture demands a balance between man’s need for economic sustenance today and society’s need to keep our ecology and environment able to meet the demands and needs of our children and people in the future.”
The CropLifeCPAP-PICMA team-up, in pursuing their corporate citizenship, is looking to support more production on the limited areas now planted to help stave off even more encroachment on the slopes. Media participants to the “Agriculture, Environment and Judicial Reporting Enhancement Seminar” sponsored by CPAP, CropLife and PICMA.
TO PROTECT mature mango trees from disease and insect infestations growers in Batangas, Laguna, Pangasinan, Davao and Cebu used to be heavy users of crop protection products. Spray applicators would regularly climb the trees with equipment to apply these products. Workers falling from trees and sustaining injuries were common, and all of them were exposed heavily to pesticides. Concerned with these problems, a project was devised to reduce the risks by workers in mango plantations. To improve the safety for spray applicators, CropLife Philippines partnered with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) between 2006 and 2008 to develop an innovative crop protection product applicator. The extendable pole, made either from bamboo or aluminum alloy, enables applicators to spray mango trees from the ground. The partners have documented the methodology in a
New ways to benefit producers of mangoes
training handbook to benefit the industry, applicators and growers. In addition to creating the extendable pole for spray applicators, the partners also launched training initiatives on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), including Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is an effective and environmentally friendly method of controlling pests. Farmers have learned how to identify plant diseases and insect infestation levels and make decisions on the type and amount of pesticide to use by following the exact instruction on product labels.
Quick facts Population: 97,976,603 Percentage of labor force in agriculture: 35 GDP: $168.6 billion Percentage of GDP from agriculture: 14.7 Crops covered by stewardship program: mango Source: CIA World Factbook, 2009
Minimized exposure to crop protection products. As applicators now spray from the ground instead of up in the tree, exposure to the products is greatly reduced. In addition, training on the appropriate use of
personal protection has ensured the enhancement of human safety. Savings from using less crop protection products. Farmers trained on IPM techniques can effectively manage diseases and insects, protect their harvests, minimize residue levels and contribute to food safety.
Benefits Elimination of accidents involving mango growers and workers. With the extendable pole, spray applicators no longer need to climb the trees and risk falling while applying crop protection products. Previously, the risk of applicators breaking limbs was significant given the height of trees.
The extendable pole, made either from bamboo or aluminum alloy, enables applicators to spray mango trees from the ground.
The spray gun in â€œopenâ€? position is tied at the end of a bamboo or metal pole.
Retrieving empty pesticide bottles A novel way to protect the environment By Nap Saavedra Chair, Stewardship Committee CropLife Phils., Inc.
THE FUTURE generation has the same rights as the present one to enjoy a clean environment. Thus, efforts to preserve nature and the environment should be a responsibility of everyone living on this planet. With this in mind, CropLife, true to its vision of being a “responsible and progressive association of the plant science industry contributing significantly to a sustainable and globally competitive Philippine agriculture,“ initiated several stewardship projects. It did so with the firm belief in what the Bruntland Commission defined as sustainable development in 1987 and said: “Meeting the needs of the present generation without sacrificing the ability of future generation to meet theirs.” On the other hand, stewardship means the ethical and responsible management of a product from discovery to ultimate use and beyond, and is actually a cradle-to-grave concept. The plant science industry promotes the safe and responsible use of crop protection products, including pesticides. Among the project initiated was the retrieval of empty
pesticide containers, which are an eyesore and potential pollutants, especially of waterways that include canals, rivers and lakes. If you happen to pass by farming communities, you can immediately see empties strewn all over the fields. This garbage was left out by the farmers after their spraying operation, and this is tantamount to irresponsible practice. This project aims to: Educate and train farmers on the proper handling, storage, transport, and disposal of empty pesticide containers
Dr. Dario Sabularse of the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA) looks over the retrieved pesticide containers.
At the moment we have collected thousands of empty pesticide containers stored in our collection center.
Devise a mechanism for the efficient collection of empty containers and actively participated in by local government units (LGUs) Evaluate recycling options in partnership with a major plastic recycling company
In January 2009, CropLife spearheaded this pilot project in Loo Valley, Buguias, Benguet in partnership with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), the Buguias LGU and Barangay Loo Valley, the Crop Protection Association of the Philippines
(CPAP), Philippine Integrated Crop Management Association (PICMA) and a plastic recycler company. The very first step undertaken was to educate the farmers on the proper use and disposal of crop protection products, whereby the triple rinsing concept was taught. A collection center was also established at the center of Barangay Loo, where the collected empties were stored. Each of the participating company was assigned a sitio where it
conducted a seminar and collected empties on a regular basis similar to the garbage collection concept. The container was bought at a price of P10 per kilo. At the moment we have collected thousands of empty pesticide containers stored in our collection center. Upon reaching the desired tonnage, this will be transported to a plastic recycling company for pelleting of the plastic. After this, a residue analysis
will be conducted to determine if the recycled materials are fit for re-use. The recycled materials will definitely be not used as food or feed containers. Like in banana plantations, the recycled banana condoms or the plastic used to cover the banana bunch were used as pathway. We are slowly but surely progressing in the collection of empty pesticide containers at the typical farming community. Like any new project, there are always birth pains. Our challenge right now is how to change the behavior of the farmers an see to it that they would continue what we have started. It is actually a matter of modifying behavior and we all know that old habits die hard. However, if they understand that it will be for their own benefit and for the generations to come, there is the likelihood that behavior would change. In the meantime, we will be evaluating the mechanics of collection and find ways on how to improve the system. However, the plan to expand the project to other farming communities still stands. 11
The Aerial Spray Ban Issue
Shall we allow science to take a backseat? A
ERIAL spraying is practiced in all major Cavendish banana-exporting countries of Latin America. In the Philippines, only low-toxicity fungicides are aerially sprayed as a major component of an IPM program to control black sigatoka. There is a raging debate however over a misguided clamor from certain groups to ban aerial spraying – and the issue is expected to be in the national limelight well into 2010. Banning of this application method will have significant negative socio-economic impact in Mindanao. After all, the industry annually contributes more than $700 million to the economy and employs, both directly and indirectly, about 500,000 people; it would also put in jeopardy the local banana industry’s global competitiveness and the government’s program to create more jobs and livelihood opportunities in the region.
Two sides of the Debate
Anti-aerial spray ban advocates are made up, among others, of banana growers (including 5000 contract and independent small farm growers) represented by the Philippine Banana Growers & Exporters Association (PBGEA), the crop protection industry represented by CropLife Phils., Inc., and the thousands of people whose livelihood depends on the banana industry, including the alleged affected community-subject of a study (Camocaan, Hagonoy, Davao Del Sur) represented by its barangay and municipal officials. The central issue in the debate revolves around the controversial DOHcommissioned study Health And Environmental Assessment Of Sitio Camocaan, Hagonoy, Davao Del Sur conducted by a team from the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology, the National Poison Manage-
Simeon Cuyson Executive Director CropLife Philippines, Inc.
ment and Control Center of the University of the Philippines, Manila, and the Department of Health. Anti-ban advocates have openly questioned the design, methodology, and the real motives behind the study which recommended, among others, the banning of aerial spraying. They have submitted position papers and documents to show that the study team’s findings are flawed and cannot support its recommendation to ban aerial spraying, in the process presenting data to show that with the use of GPS and other state-of-the-art application technology and with the provision of 50 meter buffer zones, drift from aerial spraying is greatly minimized to a negligible level and does not cause the illnesses, much less deaths, that are being attributed to it. Available data also show that aerial spraying of fungicides for more than 30 years has not really polluted Davao City’s potable water and soils and has not caused environmental degradation. PBGEA also presented hard evidence that the alleged medical cases publicized by Dr. Romeo Quijano of the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), and the alleged cases of pesticide poisoning presented by Interface Development Interventions Inc. (IDIS), are anecdotal and fabricated. Behind PAN’s advocacy against the use of chemical pesticides, the main antiaerial spraying NGOs are MAAS (Mamamayan Ayaw Sa Aerial Spraying), IDIS, NTFAAS (National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying), and a coalition of local people’s organizations. Their high profile, well organized and well-funded campaign evokes great emotional appeal by invoking people’s right to health and clean environment. There is however a “disconnect” in NTFAAS’ pronouncements that
Marlon Dulla is one of twin boys reported to have died at birth due to aerial spraying in a study by a Dr. R. Quijano dated 2002/2003 that sparked this aerial spray ban movement. Marlon, now 25, is alive and well, as is his twin brother who is now a father himself.
they are not against the use of pesticides; what they are against is aerial spraying. They persist in using the general term pesticides, rather than fungicides despite repeated explanations from the banana and the crop protection industry that only lowtoxicity fungicides are used in aerial spraying. It would be interesting to know what they would say if what is being aerially sprayed is clean water ! They have shown no qualms about spreading lies and disinformation as long as they produce good emotional impact as in the case of MAAS’ crying lady. Through these tactics, they have been able to solicit the help of influential personalities, including some leading members of the clergy, to support their cause.
Peer Review of the DOHcommissioned study An unbiased, objective review by any good student of science who has experience in conducting research would invariably detect flaws in the study. Documents questioning the different aspects of the study have been submitted to DOH by both PBGEA and CropLife Phils. In the process, CropLife had formally requested the University of the Philippines, Manila for a peer review of the study, which the University did. We have been told that there are two independent U.P. Manila peer reviews conducted by two epidemiologists who do not belong to departments of the DOH-commissioned study team. The reviews were done from the perspectives of public health epidemiology and of clinical epidemiology, particularly on the design and methodology used in the study. UP Manila however had later taken the position that
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