2 Los Baños-based int’l agencies mount multi-sectoral workshop on mainstreaming agrobiodiversity

4 December 2018

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) co-organized the ongoing Multi-sectoral Workshop on Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Food and Agriculture on 4-6 December 2018.

Now ongoing at Amari Watergate in Bangkok, the workshop is co-hosted by Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) and Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC).

Participating in the workshop are representatives of the environment and agriculture ministries of ASEAN Member States, relevant ASEAN sectoral bodies, the ASEAN Secretariat, development partners, and relevant networks from the education and research sectors. 

The multi-sectoral workshop provides a platform for the environment and agriculture sectors in the ASEAN Community to discuss and develop a common understanding of agrobiodiversity conservation and sustainable use.

It also intends to identify and define possible areas of collaboration and supportive processes among the relevant ASEAN sectoral bodies and development partners towards mainstreaming biodiversity in the agriculture sector.

Among the expected outputs of the workshop is a pilot project in agrobiodiversity that includes the recommended elements and structure of a multi- and cross-sectoral coordination mechanism among and between the relevant ASEAN bodies for mainstreaming, conservation, and sustainable use of agrobiodiversity in the ASEAN region.

Mainstreaming agrobiodiversity is the first joint thematic initiative of ACB and SEARCA, which proposes to facilitate inter-sectoral discussion towards a common understanding of conservation and sustainable use of agrobiodiversity in the ASEAN.

The workshop is the second collaboration of SEARCA and ACB under a formal agreement to pursue common objectives in biodiversity and agriculture signed in July 2016. The first major activity of this cooperation was a regional workshop on mainstreaming biodiversity in agriculture for sustainable development and food security in Southeast Asia,” held in September 2017 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.


7 March 2019

Legislative officials apprised on Philippine biosafety regulations   

More than 100 legislative officials from the House of Representatives and selected members of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) were apprised on the Philippine regulatory system for genetically modified crops in a briefing held at the House of Representatives last February 27.

In the latest briefing, the legislative officials were given thorough information on The Philippine Regulatory System for Genetically Modified Crops: DOST-DA-DENR-DOH-DILG Joint Department Circular (JDC) No. 1, series of 2016.

Representatives from the Departments of Agriculture (DA), Health (DOH), Science and Technology (DOST), Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) explained to the participants the new regulatory guidelines on biotech crops.

They also provided factual and science-based information pertaining to the science as well as the environmental and food safety of biotech products.

Expressing his support, Rep. Erico Aristotle Aumentado, Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology (S&T), stressed that legislation should be more empirical and scientific. Mr. Donald Caballero, Secretary of the Committee on S&T, read Rep. Aumentado’s message on his behalf.  

Aumentado also noted that the activity is an innovation towards the realization of Research for Development (R4D), which will strengthen the role of science and basic research in creating meaningful governance through policy-making and legislation.

Meanwhile, Ms. Annalyn Lopez, Director-Coordinator of the Department of Agriculture-Biotechnology Program Office (DA-BPO), noted that though some find the current regulatory requirements to be a hurdle, science has enabled the evolution of regulatory approaches and it can be used to improve the effectiveness and agility of the country’s regulatory system.  

The briefing was organized by the DA-BPO, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) Biotechnology Information Center (BIC), and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). It was the tenth in the series of Joint Department Circular public briefings held nationwide by the DA-BPO, SEARCA, and ISAAA since 2015.


11 February 2019

Lawyers favor application of agri-biotech in food and medicines, study finds

A study conducted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Development Communication (UPLB-CDC) 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 to scientists and experts as well as representatives from the academe, national and international agencies/institutions, and partners from the biotech community during a recent lecture at the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

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, 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.

Dr. Torres said results showed that 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, lawyers still favor the application of agri-biotech in food and medicines provided that proper precautions are taken.

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, she said 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.

Furthermore, Atty. Cortes said the study also analyzed the content of legal documents related to the Bt eggplant case. She said 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 explained 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.

The study was commissioned by the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA-BIC).