Biotech crops seen as a greener solution for PH, other countries

The use of crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide use associated with environmental impact and is beneficial for agricultural biodiversity, a UK-based agricultural economist and scientists from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) said.

During an online technical forum organized by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), Dr. Merdelyn Caasi-Lit and Dr. Ireneo L. Lit, Jr., professors and scientists at UPLB, said that based on their study, biotech crops like Bt corn ensures good yield by protecting the crop against corn borer infestation and reducing farm inputs for pesticide use.

They also said that Bt corn has also been proven to be beneficial for agrobiodiversity.

Graham Brookes, an agricultural economist at the UK-based PG Economics Ltd, presented during the forum the cumulative impact of using genetically modified (GM) crop technology in agriculture from 1996 to 2018.

Aside from significant net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to more than USD 200 billion over a period of 22 years, he also presented key environmental impacts associated with using crop biotechnology such as reduced pesticide application by 775.4 million kg (8.3 percent).

He said this resulted in the decreased environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on crops. 

“Genetic modification is an important contribution to increasing world production of soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton—resulting in higher yields, higher incomes, more reliable food supply, adoption of more sustainable farming systems, more environmentally-friendly farming methods, and reduction in carbon emissions,” Brookes said.

During the forum, Brookes, together with Caasi-Lit and Lit, also addressed questions and concerns from participants that ranged from mitigating the possible environmental impact of unauthorized GM seeds to recommendations on existing regulatory policies, the status of CRISPR-Cas9 projects in the country, and effective means of promoting knowledge about the advantages of GMOs in agriculture and economy.

The forum was a part of the 16th National Biotechnology Week led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

More than a thousand participants from Asia, Europe, and South America attended the forum, including a big turnout of students and teachers from different universities in the Philippines.