The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is seeking to craft “facilitative guidelines” that would cover all activities involving new Breeding Techniques (NBTs) in an effort to caution the impact of climate change on country’s agriculture sector, especially the plant breeders.
DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said with the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines’ (NCBP) issuance of the policy on Plant Breeding Innovations, the development of such guidelines “based on the best available science for all activities involving NBTs” is in order.
“I am proud to say that we, the Philippines have joined the few countries that issued a policy on the treatment of plants and plant products derived from NBTs. Through the issuance of the NCBP’s policy on Plant Breeding Innovations, it is our hope that we will be able to develop a facilitative guidelines based on the best available science for all activities involving NBTs,” he said in a webinar conducted by the NCBP on the New Plant Breeding Techniques or Plant Breeding Innovations.
During the webinar, he underscored the importance of NBTs in accelerating the development of crop varieties as compared to conventional breeding,
Aside from opening up opportunities to further improve our approach in agriculture, the NBTs also “creates the potential to breed plant varieties that have natural resistance to fungal diseases and to evolve traits at a pace that keeps up with the evolving pest.”
“It creates the ability to breed crops and grasses that perform better with fewer inputs reducing costs to farmers and reducing impacts on the environment, and it creates the ability to breed plants that can adapt to the challenges of climate change,” he added.
He explained that depending on the specific technique, the NBTs can provide a way to genetically modify plants without introducing novel combinations in the genome that can trigger genetically modified organism (GMO) regulation.
He said the NBTs can produce products similar to those produced through conventional breeding and mutagenesis but more precise; and can also produce GMOs but with more precision over ordinary GM technology.
“NBTs may not even need to modify DNA to produce useful products,” De la Peña said.
During the webinar, the DOST Chief also stressed the need for the Philippines to put in place a robust and scientifically-sound regulatory system on modern biotechnology.
“Twenty years ago, there was much debate about genetically modified crops. It is fair to say that there was understandable public concern about moving genes across natural biological boundaries. But it will always be important to have a robust and scientifically-sound regulatory system in place to govern genetic modification,” he said.