Scientists took center stage last week in a forum at the College of Science and Mathematics (CSM) of the University of the Philippines-Mindanao (UP-Min) in Mintal, Davao City and discussed the future of a science-based Philippine agriculture.
The forum, entitled “Making Science Work for Us,” was held during CSM Week, which was celebrated as part of the UP-Min’s 14th foundation anniversary.
The lecture-forum featured, among others, a relaunch of UP Min’s Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr.’s “The Unfolding Gene Revolution,” the Outstanding Book Awardee of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) for 2008.
Attended by hundreds of students, faculty members, professionals and farmers, the lecture-forum was sponsored by CropLife Philippines and conducted by Initiative for Farm Advocacy and Resource Management (IFARM), a newly-organized non-government organization (NGO) promoting science-based agriculture.
Experts also discussed the issue of aerial spraying in large banana plantations in the Davao provinces and stressed the solutions used can be applied scientifically and diluted to such an extent that it can be harmless to human like over the counter (OTC) medicines.
Moreover, the solution used is effective in ridding the fruits of pests and viruses that have become the bane of Filipino banana exporters.
IFARM (www.ifarmpinas.com) is promoting the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in the farms as a mode of self-regulation and responsible profitability towards sustainable agriculture and the active protection of the environment.
CropLIfe Philippines is the local counterpart association of the global crop protection industry that is currently promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) among its members.
With its current thrust of “more food on less land,” CropLife is embarking on disseminating plant science technology to help the local farmers achieve production targets even while promoting GAP and the proper use of farm inputs to ensure that all production is safe for the consuming public and not harmful to the environment.
Starting off with a presentation on “Towards a GAP-compliant Mango Production,” Dr. Calixto Protacio, professor of horticulture of UP Los Banos and chairman of IFARM, outlined his technical findings on mango production that revolved around the cultivation of smaller trees and continuous pruning to encourage fruit-bearing and more productive harvests.
Dr. Renato Labadan, a Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awardee like Dr. Rasco and author of the 2006 National Book Award of the Manila Critics’ Circle and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas for his book “Coconut – The Philippine Money Tree,” enlightened the participants on the new high-value products that may be produced from the coconut such as coconut sugar, honey, toddy and others.
Dr. Dario Sabularse, deputy executive director of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), the regulatory agency for the crop protection and enhancement industry, outlined the regulatory regimen enforced by the FPA on the local production and marketing of farm inputs.
Dr. Sabularse dwelled on the science and procedures the FPA implements to ensure that all agricultural products are safe and nutritious for the consuming market, emphasizing that all products that have been found to be harmful have actually been banned from local use.
Thus, the consuming public has no need to worry or be alarmed.
Nevertheless, he invited the public to report any abuse or misuse of such farm inputs, reporting himself that the FPA on its own conducts tests periodically and have found no infractions of any magnitude that should cause public concern.
On account of the questions arising from the aerial spraying of banana plantations in the Davao area, Dr. Emily Fabregar, head of the Technical Committee of the PBGEA, was asked to elucidate to the audience the new GPS and intelligent spray control technologies that the plantations are implementing.
Dr. Fabregar said with these new technologies being used in farms, all members of the population are benefiting from their proper and responsible use, ensuring that only adequate amounts and mixtures are sprayed on bananas.
These mixtures are as harmless as any above-the-counter medications currently available for unrestricted public use, she added.
The forum was capped off by Dr. Rasco’s presentation of his award-winning book “The Unfolding Gene Revolution.”
Using layman’s terms and spiced with humor, the books shows how the new science of biotechnology was developed and how its findings are helping in the quest for adequate production to feed the growing population.
In closing, Sim Cuyson, executive director of CropLife Philippines, outlined his association’s commitment to continue the dialogue between science and the general public so as to allay fears about the use of “risky” farm inputs.
Cuyson said his group is now working to correct the wrong information being peddled to justify the ban on aerial spraying.
What is important is for farmers and consumers to know more about the scientific methods of spraying to prevent the spread of plant diseases.CropLife said it is ready to help in disseminating scientific information to correct the impression of some people about the need to ban aerial spraying. (iFARM)