Biotechnology for food security

  • 27 November 2017

Source: SunStar
27 Nov 2017

HOW does food security be achieved?

There's a variety of ways, but never a lone key for this global threat. One technology that can complement with the existing solutions is biotechnology.

Fr. Emmanuel Alparce, IEC Technical Committee member in DA-Biotech Program Office, said in a speech last November 22 during the Jose G. Burgos Jr. Awards for biotechnology journalism at Brentwood Suites, Quezon City that biotechnology can be a strong arrow in targeting food security.

"We are doing biotechnology because this is a technology that answers issues on food security. The vision is achieving a lifestyle where we can all eat three times a day, live comfortably, be happy, because we are being fed by agriculture that produces enough and affordable food for all," he said.

He emphasized that the hectares of land for farming (especially for staple crops) is decreasing while the population who needs food for survival continues to balloon in leaps and bounds.

"Food security cannot be done alone by traditional means of agriculture, it cannot be even solved by organic farming, it is expensive, takes a long time to produce and it cannot produce enough to the many hungry," he said.

Gil Saguiguit, director of Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) previously said that safe, and evidence- and science-based agricultural technologies in promoting agricultural productivity and food and nutrition security amid climate change and dwindling production resources is important.

Among these technologies is biotechnology, including both traditional (such as selective breeding and fermentation techniques) and modern (genetic engineering) techniques, which SEARCA looks at as an important tool in addressing most of the agriculture challenges.

Alparce underscored that Genetic Engineering is under the ambit of biotech is a very much misunderstood, maligned and very controversial technology especially in food.

"So many people are against this (Genetic engineering) for so many reasons: it causes cancer, homosexuality, destroys the environment, poisons the earth, etc. But these are all baseless and not based on facts," he said.

He cited that Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn first introduced in the Philippines in late 2002 and no one has ever been reported to be sick or died because of it.

National Biotechnology Week Celebration

In a recently-concluded "National Biotechnology Week (NBW)" slated last November 20-24, it highlighted the beneficial application of biotechnology in food and agriculture, health, environment and industry.

It showcases the applications of biotechnology in food production, health and wellness, and environmental conservation through technology exhibits, trade fair, seminars and forums for teachers, students, farmers and consumers.

It has the theme, "Bioteknolohiya para sa Kalikasan, Kalusugan, Kagandahan, Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran: Lamang ang Masa at Magsasaka sa Limang 'K' ng Bioteknolohiya!"

As part of the celebration, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) showcases its breakthrough technologies and programs in biotechnology.

These are: the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development's Biotek-M, a cheaper, yet accurate, confirmatory test for dengue diagnosis; Forest Products Research and Development Institute's Bioactive Bamboo, a study to screen the phytochemical components of ethanolic and aqueous extracts of kauayan tinik, kauayan kiling and bolo; Philippine Nuclear Research Institute's Mutation Breeding and Tissue Culture for Mangosteen which aims to obtain varieties with increased yield and improved fruit quality; Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development's genomics R&D programs on rubber, cacao and coffee and food; and Nutrition Research Institute's R&D program on Nutrigenomics, Industrial Technology Development Institute's edible mushroom collection.

The NBW was organized by an interagency committee composed of the departments of Agriculture, Education, Environment and Natural Resources, Health, the Interior and Local Government, Science and Technology and Trade and Industry.

It is being held annually based on the mandate from Presidential Proclamation 1414 issued in 2007 declaring every last week of November of every year as NBW.