Untapped potential exists for animal biotechnology

5 November 2020

A more progressive regulation on animal biotechnology may hold the potential to contribute to food security and a more sustainable agriculture, according to an Argentinian expert in regulation and policymaking for biotechnology.

Speaking at the SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement webinar of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), Dr. Martin Lema of the University of Quilmes, Argentina said “If the Philippines has the opportunity to revise regulations on animal biotechnology, it can provide the capacity to assess if these technologies may be used for food production in the country and contribute to food security and a more sustainable agriculture.”

Dr. Lema provided a broad perspective on regulatory frameworks applied to the genetic improvement of animals using innovative breeding tools like marker-assisted breeding, cloning, transgenesis, and genome editing. He also emphasized the need for a sound regulatory framework on animal biotech.

The SOLVE webinar was jointly organized by SEARCA collaboration with the United States Embassy Manila and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) to provide unbiased science-based information.

US Embassy Manila Chargé d’affaires (Acting Ambassador) John Law affirmed the shared commitment of the USA and the Philippines to a science-based approach to agriculture.

Both countries, together with a diverse group of nations, strongly support safe technologies by co-sponsoring an international statement on precision biotechnology at the World Trade Organization.

“The Philippines is continuing to demonstrate its commitment and leadership in the global stage in providing farmers the tools they need to address the array of challenges we face in producing safe, sustainable, and abundant food, feed, and energy,” Law said. 

He added that the 10-year Science and Technology Agreement between USA and the Philippines “celebrates the strong cooperation between US and Philippine research institutions and expands our joint activities in agricultural, environmental, and health sciences.”

Aside from Dr. Lema, experts from the United Kingdom and the Philippines shared their expertise on global and local animal biotech applications as well as the regulations and challenges in the field.

Dr. Simon Lilico of the University of Edinburgh presented the global state of animal biotechnology and introduced current initiatives being done and technologies being explored in other countries.

Updates on initiatives being done locally were reported by Dr. Claro Mingala of the Philippine Carabao Center.

He said that since the use of GMOs in the Philippines is still confined to biotech crops, the benefits from animal biotechnologies in the country are in the developed rapid animal disease test kits, reproductive biotechnologies, and product development.

Mingala also cited potential benefits of animal biotechnologies for Filipino farmers in conjunction with proper animal management such as increased income of livestock food producers, doubled food production to meet the supply in demand, creation of climate change and disease resilient or resistant animal and development of rapid diagnostics and modern animal disease surveillance. He said the Philippines is not far behind in terms of animal biotechnology applications.

Mingala pointed out that “Biotech has a lot of potential in increasing our livestock production, but it is only one of the options. Biotech does not take your freedom of choice. We agree what biotechnology offers to farming communities – to sustain of food and food security. As scientists, we are here to help achieve a food secure community.”   

The experts also addressed the participants’ questions on animal welfare, food security and safety, benefits of animal biotech, future of animal biotech research in the Philippines, and regulatory policies.

Since 2000, SEARCA has been a partner of ISAAA in responding to information needs and promoting and advancing a broader public understanding of crop biotechnology.

The webinar on the “Unrealized Potential of Animal Biotechnology” is an effort in monitoring the local agri-biotech environment and within SEARCA’s priority focus on food and nutrition security under its current five-year strategic plan (2020-2025), which is intent on Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN).


5 November 2020

Innovation Olympics 2.0 deadline set on Nov. 7

Young innovators are called to join the Innovation Olympics 2.0, an “agri hackathon” for the youth to develop innovative solutions for the farming sector of the country. The deadline for entries is on November 7, 2020. Submission may be done online via https://tinyurl.com/IO2Application.

Themed “Precision Agriculture for Small-Scale Vegetable Farming,” Innovation Olympics 2.0 is a way for students to share, create, and pilot new technology solutions for urban and rural smallholder vegetable farmers.

“Precision agriculture aims to increase the profitability of farmers while sustaining the environment through employing more efficient and new technologies in crop production,” explained University of the Philippines Los Baños Technology Transfer and Business Development Office (UPLB-TTBDO) Director Glenn Baticados.

Undergraduate and graduate students, who can form a team of at least three members per team, from any university in the Philippines may join the competition.

The participating teams will receive online training and demonstrations as well as seed money for each stage, including actual implementation of the projects in farming communities.

From a total of thirty participating teams that will receive P10 000 ideation money each, two finalists from each region will then be selected to implement their projects with P100,000 seed money each.

The competition will culminate on the National Demo Day in June 2021, wherein six finalists will vie for the grand prize of P200,000. A panel of experts will evaluate the implementation and impact of their innovative solutions.

The Innovation Olympics 2.0 is made possible by the partnership of East-West Seed with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), Sensient Colors LLC, UPLB, UPLB-TTBDO, UPLB Startup Innovation and Business Opportunity Linkaging Labs (SIBOL Labs), and APEX: The UPLB Business Network.

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio stressed that while the new normal challenged the agricultural sector, it also paved a way for more innovations to be developed and employed to help food producers and address the needs of consumers in this unprecedented time.

“During this time, the agricultural sector is the most affected and at the same time the most appreciated…. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures that’s why we have Innovation Olympics 2.0.,” he said.


5 November 2020

Calamansi farmers train on product development, waste utilization

Oriental Mindoro farmer-leaders, processors, and representatives from the private sector and government gained a good grasp of the calamansi processing industry and the opportunities and challenges in a seminar recently conducted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). Government agencies represented included the Departments of Agriculture (DA), Science and Technology (DOST), and Trade and Industry (DTI).

Held virtually, the seminar focused on calamansi waste utilization and product development opportunities. It aimed to enable the participants to recommend interventions and strategies for potential calamansi products and enterprises.

The capacity building activity is under the project “Upgrading the Calamansi Value Chain towards Improving the Calamansi Industry of Oriental Mindoro” funded by the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) and jointly implemented by SEARCA, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Tokyo University of Agriculture (Tokyo NODAI), Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology (MinSCAT), and the local government of Victoria, Oriental Mindoro, said Dr. Pedcris M. Orencio, SEARCA Program Head for Research and Thought Leadership.

He explained that the project aims to bring together the strengths of the research institutions, in collaboration with the local government units, private sector and industries to address the technical and market constraints that confront the calamansi industry.

Dr. Orencio said the collaboration operationalizes SEARCA’s Academe-Industry-Government (AIG) interconnectivity model to strengthen agricultural innovations and promote market-driven agribusiness models towards increased productivity and income of farmers and stakeholders.

According to SEARCA study leader Dr. Matilde Maunahan, the seminar took off from the results and recommendations of the value chain analysis and the stakeholders’ validation workshop to set the tone for further initiatives in calamansi enhancement and product development.

Oriental Mindoro Provincial Agriculturist Christine Pine discussed the calamansi industry roadmap of the province. She explained the current production trends, products and markets, and the major constraints along the calamansi value chain.

She said Oriental Mindoro is envisioned to be the number one supplier of quality fresh and processed calamansi products that are compliant with good agricultural and manufacturing practices and standards catering to both domestic and international markets.

University Researcher II Fides Tambalo of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) discussed the food and non-food products derived from calamansi by-products like pulp, rind, and peels and their market potential. She said non-food products include essential oil, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.

On the other hand, DOST- Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) Senior Science Research Specialist Oliver C. Evangelista introduced the calamansi dietary fiber, which is an insoluble type of dietary fiber that can be derived from the pulp and peel of the calamansi fruit. He said the product prototype can be in the form of tablet, powder, and cookies.

Representatives from several institutions and the private sector gave their perspectives on the topics discussed and possible ways forward towards improving the calamansi industry of Oriental Mindoro.

Those who expressed their support and pledged their commitment on behalf of their organizations were Ms. Corazon O. Sinnung, Regional Focal Person for the High Value Crops Division of DA-Region IV-B; Ms. Rachel B. Montero, Science Research Specialist II of DOST-Oriental Mindoro; Ms. Lucilyn Precious A. Leviste of DTI-Oriental Mindoro; Mr. Lloyd Kristoffer Berroya, President of the Berroya Corp.; and Mr. Leonel C. Mendoza, Director for Research and Manager of the MinSCAT Food Innovation Center.