SEARCA favors biotech regulation

ASEAN’s farm research center SEARCA is boosting support for favorable agri-biotechnology regulatory policies amid local calls for the revocation of the commercial permit of pro-Vitamin A-rich Golden Rice.

Believing agri-biotechnology will be key to food security and the upliftment of farmers’ lives, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture said it
partnered with three expert groups for the golden rice program to boost expert knowledge in regulations on living modified organisms (LMO).

LMO include farm products more known to be the controversial GMO (genetically modified organisms).

This is through the opening of the program “Second Asian Course on Agribiotechnology.”

Despite safety questions on these biotechnology products, SEARCA deems it important to harness the full potential of agri-biotechnology through “effective communication and science-based regulatory frameworks.”

SEARCA Director and National Academician Glenn B. Gregorio, highlighted SEARCA’s important role in advancing science-based innovations to address poverty and food security.

“We stand behind products of agribiotechnology that increase agricultural productivity to feed a growing population in the midst of dwindling natural resources and erratic changes in climate,” Gregorio said.

“Due attention must be given to our resource-poor farmers by providing them access to information, best practices, and new technologies that gives them a fighting chance to cope with the many challenges they face and to open up better opportunities for them and their families so that they can have better quality lives,” Gregorio said.

According to Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan, International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA) Global Coordinator, “we organized this training program to bring our Asian stakeholders updated information and hands-on experience on agribiotechnology, exercises on food/feed safety assessment, and tips on strategic communication and risk management and communication.”

This year’s Asian Short Course on Agribiotechnology gathers 25 participants from both public and private sectors of eight countries. These are China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

SEARCA’s partnership is with the ISAAA, Malaysian Biotechnology Information Center and Monash University.

The program focuses on Agribiotechnology, Biotechnology Regulation and Communication.

While government has just approved permit for use for food, feed, and processing of golden rice, Greenpeace has reportedly filed a petition for the permit’s revocation.

Golden Rice has been questioned by interest groups due to the technology that inserted a gene into the grain that enables the staple to produce increased Vitamin A, helping reduce massive Vitamin A-deficiency (VAD).

It is targeted at preventing blindness that develops in around 500,000 people, mainly children, yearly, reported the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board (GRHB)

“Nearly nine million children die of malnutrition every year. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) severely affects their immune system, hence it is involved in many of these children’s deaths in the guise of multiple diseases. Malaria deaths in children under five years of age has been linked with deficiencies in the intake of protein, vitamin A and zinc,” said the board.

The rice technology will have huge economic impact for poor farmers as they no longer have to invest more into the seed.