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2-Plants: Philippine Department of Agriculture plans first Btcotton releases



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TITLE:  DA considers Bt cotton field trials
SOURCE: The Philippine Star, by Rocel C. Felix
        http://www.philstar.com/philstar/search_content.asp?article=122760
DATE:   May 11, 2003

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DA considers Bt cotton field trials

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is mulling the first-ever field trials
on Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) cotton even as protests are mounting over
government's approval of the commercialization of Bt corn in the country.

Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano said that local cotton
producer and distributor Primatex Fibre Corp. (PFC) already filed an
application to conduct field experiments within the year. These tests
will determine the suitability and adaptability of producing Bt corn
under local conditions.

In cotton-producing countries such as China, United States, India, and
Africa, the large-scale production of Bt corn has proven to be
profitable, said Serrano.

Bt cotton is a genetically modified crop injected with the gene resistant
to worms like lipidopterans. This improves the productivity of cotton
yields by 400 to 700 kilos per hectare from 1.25 metric tons (MT) per
hectare to 2.5 MT using traditional varieties.

Serrano, citing feasibility studies, stressed some of the advantages of
growing Bt cotton.

For instance, a farm size of 30,000 hectares planted to Bt cotton can
save an estimated 150,000 liters of pesticide worth P90 million that is
usually spent using traditional cotton seed varieties. At the same time
this eliminates farmers' risk of constant exposure to possible-cancer-
causing chemicals.

PFC said in its application that with increased cotton production, the
country could save foreign exchange of about $100 million annually.

This will also boost cotton exports by $200 million and generate
employment for some 100,000 families from cotton farms of 50,000 to
100,000 hectares.

PFC estimates show that cotton farmers? income can increase with Bt
cotton from P15,000 to P33,000 per hectare in irrigated areas and from
P6,600 to P24,000 per hectare in rainfed areas.

It added that the country can produce good cotton quality that can rival
the best cotton from the US, Australia, Zimbabwe, and West Africa.

"The country has suitable climate, available processing facilities and
trained human resources. The textile industry will likewise benefit as
cotton is the major raw material in textile manufacture. Cottonseeds has
vast potential for other downstream industries," PFC said.

PFC said that Bt cotton production is environment-friendly and will not
pose any danger or hazard to ecosystems.

"Bt cotton has no effect on any living things other than targeted
insects. It does not harm beneficial insect and allows insect friends to
increase," said Isagani Catedral, PFC's cotton project director

Currently, PFC is working closely with the Cotton Development Authority
(CDA) on the filing of its field testing application with the National
Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) which ensures that
safety procedures on field trials or experiments are strictly followed
and all other requirements are complied with.

PFC's bid is being backed up by the International Service for the
Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) Director Randy Hautea.
ISAA said the Philippine government is working on a possible tie-up with
China in order to bring down the cost of the technology transfer.

The ISAAA explained that to make technology transfer cheaper, the
government could request the Chinese government for assistance. This will
definetely be less expensive than acquiring the technology from big
multinational companies such as Monsanto, Du Pont, and Syngenta which are
strong advocates of Bt technology advances.