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Friday, March 13, 2009

Newly-developed biotech abaca being eyed to boost troubled industry in the south

MARAWI CITY -- The Department of Agriculture and the Mindanao State University (MSU) are collaborating to help reinvigorate the troubled abaca industry in the south which used to be a big foreign exchange earner through a newly-developed biotechnology variety that has been proven to be resistant to deadly viruses.

Director Alicia Ilaga of the DA Biotechnology Program cited during the recent launching of the Biotechnology Information and Resource Center at the MSU main campus cited that the virus resistant abaca developed by the panel of experts led by Dr. Antonio Lalusin of the Institute of Plant Breeding at the University of Plant Breeding in Los could be the solution to fast deteriorating abaca industry, particularly in central Mindanao.

Dr. Macapado A. Muslim, the MSU president, acknowledged the need for abaca growers to pursue agricultural modernization in Mindanao, which continues of to be plagued by deadly mosaic, bract mosaic and the bunchy-top viruses which had earlier crippled the Bicol region, which used to be country’s biggest abaca producer.

Initially, Muslim has proposed the setting up a of tissue culture laboratories to be hosted by the MSU system, to propagate the newly-developed biotech abaca variety.

Ilaga said that Mindanao can fast rehabilitate the dwindling abaca industry, with its vast areas suitable to abaca plantations to meet the country’s export demand.

While Bicol accounts for 66 per cent or 52,666 hectares of total abaca area mapped by the DA, it also reported a 27 per cent incidence of viral diseases prompting government to look at Eastern Visayas to augment the abaca needs of the country.

But Muslim noted that given the necessary funding for research and development, the MSU can promote truly Filipino biotechnology products starting with the virus –resistant abaca.

He offered to mobilize the 21 agriculture scientists of the MSU College of Agriculture in Marawi to step up government’s efforts in modernizing agriculture in the south. It was gathered that MSU has already submitted 36 project proposals for research and development projects to boost agriculture modernization in the south.

“Given the continuously increasing population in the country, biotechnology is an option” to meet the country’s food demands, Muslim said

Meanwhile, Ilaga said that DA Undersecretary Segefredo Serrano will meet with the MSU officials to map out possible collaboration efforts in promoting abaca and other biotechnology crops. (biolife news service)

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