Trailblazing the Agricultural Biotechnology Roadmap
In Philippine agriculture, the DA Biotech Program targets the stage where farmers and fisherfolks are able to make ends meet—they could have the capacity to provide their present needs without compromising their ability to attain well-being in the future. The Program intends to skirmish in pursuit of this vision beyond scarcities by maximizing the use of meager resources available.
In 2007, the Program takes the path towards the implementation of the Agricultural Biotechnology Roadmap and continuously undertaking what it has started in influencing policy directions through policy research, strengthening institutional capacities to meet global standards, supporting applied biotech research to be competent economically, transforming science into business, and advocating biotechnology for Filipinos.
To influence biotechnology’s policy directions, the Program supports research studies aiming to guide the Department and other concerned agencies in making decisions on investment in R&D and commercialization.
Notable policy research studies under the Program are on rice biotechnology, natural ingredients, GM cotton, and GM abaca. Results of these studies show the feasibility of investing in the said GM crops as these could increase productivity and accrue health and environmental impact.
The study on the commercialization of agricultural biotechnologies in public institutions has reached its conclusion and currently the proponent is on the process of proposing the guidelines to the Department leadership.
In enhancing capacities for biotech, better information sharing on modern biotech regulation through information technology infrastructure is central to the biotech website being established at the Bureau of Plant Industry.
R&D personnel are also regularly undergoing trainings to keep up with the fast paced development in the science. Recently, PCC researchers and scientists were sponsored to laboratory training on the use of molecular markers and reproductive bio techniques in livestock at the Iowa State University.
Capacity development has been extended to local executives, through the pilot-implemented Biotechnology Course for LGUs, to grant them the opportunity to make use of biotechnology for local development, and to the youth, through Instituting Biotechnology Course in SUCs, to instill appreciation and knowledge necessary to bestow biotechnology sustainability.
Support in applied biotech research is necessary to develop cutting-edge technologies in solving critical production problems. The Program is geared towards developing endemic and important products through modern biotechnology like rice varieties resistant to viruses and enriched with Vitamin A, papaya variety with virus resistance and delayed-ripening trait, cotton resistant to bollworm, abaca resistant to virus, coconut and makapuno with a technology for mass propagation, and more supply of meat and milk through improved carabaos.
In addition to these, crucial studies are also being done on effective agents for bioethanol production feedstocks and malunggay tissue culture under the DA Biotech Research Fellowship Program.
The DA Biotech Program is also undertaking malunggay advocacy for commercial and household farming. A research project based in Tarlac on farming technology of malunggay is on-going implemented by the National Agribusiness Corporation with technical assistance from the Bureau of Plant Industry and DA Regional Field Unit III. Exhibits and fairs were also participated in to communicate the potential of malunggay and showcase its products.
It would be more beneficial to the country’s economy if biotechnology could be converted into something as concrete as establishment of businesses and eventually, industries. Towards this, the Program ventures in creating a milieu where new industries could subsist.
Currently, it has established and started the operation of DA Biotech Business Incubation Facility for technology developers to pilot commercial scale operation until the process is perfected and the resulting product passes the standards of the target market.
Our biotechnology advocacy is an achievement the country can be proud of. The Philippines is now one of the leading countries in terms of sustainable biotechnology promotion and advocacy. The key to its success and sustainability is strengthening the movement for biotechnology through partnerships among government and private sector and the mass media. Along with other breakthroughs such as the annual celebration of National Biotech Week through Presidential Proclamation 1414 and Jose G. Burgos Awards for Biotech Journalism, the Program continuously establishes Biotechnology Information and Organization Network and Biotechnology Commerce (BIONet-BIOCommerce) at the local levels. Now, it intends to establish model BIONet-BIOCommerce areas and expand to include poorest provinces.
The goal of the Program is to increase agricultural productivity and income, and attain sustainability. This would stimulate technology-based industries through biotechnology. Towards this goal the Program has been running. In the years to come, this is still the trail the Program intends to take.
The Applied Biotechnology Research Component of the DA Biotechnology Program
The Biotechnology RDE Program Team was tasked: (1) To review the current Research, Development and Extension (RDE) Roadmap of the Department of Agriculture Biotech Program and other roadmaps or programs being implemented and managed by the Department of Agriculture and other relevant agencies; (2) Coordinate and consult with concerned attached agencies and program offices of the Department of Agriculture, DA Biotech Program Technical Committee Members, and other relevant agencies in the conduct of roadmap/program review; and (3) Formulate and recommend a refined RDE Roadmap for Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program.
The research projects and fellowships on applied biotechnology funded by the DA Biotechnology Program from 2003 to 2013 were reviewed in relation to other RDE roadmaps and programs being implemented and managed by the Department of Agriculture Commodity Programs, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), Sugar Regulatory Administration, Philippine Coconut Authority and the Cotton Development Authority in relation to their available RDE roadmaps/programs. The Biotechnology Roadmap of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) and the National Biotechnology Roadmap for 2012–2018 of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) were also covered.
The Team also consulted with the heads/representatives of the Crop Biotechnology Center (PhilRice), Livestock Biotechnology Center (Philippine Carabao Center), the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI), the Philippine Genome Center and the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, UP Diliman. Possible sources of technical assistance were identified by the Team Leader in consultation with scientists and science administrators and new developments in biotechnology were obtained from scientific and popular literature.
For the natural ingredients component of the Program, consultations were made with representatives of the Bayan Agro-Industrial Corp., Chamber of Herbal Industries of the Philippines, Inc., National Products Society of the Philippines, Cac Farm, Inc., Leonie Agric. Corp., Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines, Bureau of Agricultural Research, Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) and stakeholders of the tilapia industry. Consultations were also made with members of the DA Biotech Program Technical Committee.
The applied biotechnology research programs were also reviewed by the Team in relation to the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) and current goals of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for food security, environmental protection, global competitiveness and climate change resiliency.
The data collected and analyzed by the Team included the names of experts using a particular bio-technique and institutional affiliations, projects conducted, results obtained and manner by which the results were disseminated. Biotech research roadmaps and programs of other DA agencies were not available.