Legal community backs agribiotech in food, medicine

  • 24 February 2019

Source: Manila Standard
24 Feb 2019

Los Baños, Laguna—A study conducted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Development Communication found that Filipino lawyers favor the application of agri-biotech in food and medicines.

Results of the study "Legal Discourse on Agri-Biotechnology: Implications to Lawyers' Engagement in Biotechnology in the Philippines" were presented during a recent lecture at the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture.

The study was commissioned by the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center.

Dr. Cleofe S. Torres, Professor at the UPLB-CDC Department of Science Communication, and Atty. Damcelle T. Cortes, Assistant Professor at the Institute for Governance and Rural Development of the UPLB College of Public Affairs and Development were the presentors during the seminar.

Scientists and experts attended the seminar as well as representatives from the academe, national and international agencies and institutions, and partners from the biotech community.

Dr. Torres and Atty. Cortes shared some of the research findings in their ADSS lecture on "Engaging Lawyers in Agri-biotechnology: Challenges and Prospects."

The study focused on analyzing the Philippine lawyers' understanding and attitude towards agri-biotechnology and how these may serve as basis for defining their engagement in agri-biotech development.

"Lawyers still favor the application of agri-biotech in food and medicines provided that proper precautions are taken despite having a low level of familiarity with key terms such as genes, viruses, Golden Rice, GMO contamination; processes; and the existence of agri-biotech regulations in the country," Dr. Torres said citing the result of the study.

She said precautions include educating the public on its pros and cons, addressing risks of the technology, and having a structured regulatory process.

According to Dr. Torres, the study also revealed that while lawyers perceive agri-biotech as an interesting topic, they do not yet see it as a lucrative area of legal practice.

"Nevertheless, lawyers were found to be open to expanding their knowledge on the subject, collaborating with scientists, and actively participating in regulating agri-biotech products in the country," Dr. Torres said.

For Atty. Cortes, she said the study also analyzed the content of legal documents related to the Bt eggplant case.

"The study found that there is a need to improve the level of science literacy among the judiciary based on the legal arguments raised during the trial," Atty. Cortes said explaining that such lack of understanding on the nature of genetically modified crops had implications on their decision to stop the Bt eggplant field testing in the Philippines in 2015, which was overturned the following year.