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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

'Biotechnology is Key to Food Security'

In the Philippines, 40 percent of our people have experienced the pangs of hunger and more are about to suffer the same unless the government, the private sector, the religious, professionals, the academic community and workers and peasants do something about it.
Higher food prices that have caused so much pain to many nations in the last two years, abetted no doubt by expensive oil, forces the nation to work double-time to increase food production.
Unwieldy population growth and diminishing agricultural lands also conspired to create a regime of high food prices, which are the bane of any concerted effort to mitigate hunger worldwide.
Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo R. Serrano, who also chairs the Department of Agriculture-Biotech Program Steering Committee, believes that modern farm technologies, particularly biotechnology, are the key to solving the country’s food security program.
“We are utilizing biotechnology safely and responsibly to increase the supply and stability as well as improve the nutritional quality of food in the market,” says Serrano.
There are new biotechnologically enhanced rice varieties that can provide the country with adequate supply of the staple.
Not only that, he adds, improved wagwag has been commercialized to make it tungro-resistant, saline-tolerant and capable of producing yields higher than 5 tons per hectare.
Moreover, the DA official claims, Tubigan 7 (NSIC Rc142) and Tubigan 11 (NSIC Rc154), two strains developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) are resistant to bacterial leaf blight. This pest is the bane of Filipino farmers during the wet season.
Tubigan 7 yields 7.4 tons per hectare, nearly double the current national yield. Research and development on drought-tolerant, saline-tolerant, and flood-tolerant rice varieties is also being done as strategic responses to the country’s erratic climatic conditions.
Government scientists are also developing Golden Rice to help curb Vitamin A deficiency among children and pregnant women, arming them with nutrients that battle blindness. The genes of the Golden Rice are being incorporated into local varieties that are resistant to tungro and bacterial blight.
“In attaining food sufficiency, we do have high hopes in biotechnology to make our food production system efficient,” Serrano reveals.
biolife news service

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