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[genet-news] GMO-FREE PRODUCTS & SEEDS: Philippine biotech program undelines importance of non-GE approaches

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Manila Bulletin, Philippines

AUTHOR: Marvyn N. Benaning


DATE:   18.04.2009

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Recognizing the benefits of biotechnology application in agriculture, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), in partnership with the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) and selected state universities and colleges (SUCs), is intensifying its biotechnology R&D program giving specific attention to traditional and modern biotechnology.

The biotechnology program focuses on integrated processing to increase the value and competitiveness of traditional crops intended for local and world markets. This includes the production of natural ingredients with the application of traditional and modern technology and the creation of clusters of natural ingredients industries.

With the Philippines being rich in biodiversity, it can exploit and create new products and medicine for the growing global market.

In a recent pronouncement of BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar, he noted how biotechnology application in agriculture is seen as an answer to issues in agricultural productivity and food security.

With such an initiative, BAR hopes to develop and promote the adoption of new production and postharvest technologies to increase productivity and profitability of selected agricultural commodities while minimizing the environmental impact of farming and fishery practices to effectively manage biodiversity, and help develop science-based policies.

The idea is to fast-track agricultural productivity that positively and directly increases farmers? incomes, provides access to nutritious and safer food, and helps achieve a healthy environment.

Based at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), BIOTECH has been promoting agricultural biotechnology that improves the productivity of the industry in turning out products that cost less and are safer for family consumption while at the same time, contributes to a healthy environment.

According to Dr. Ida F. Dalamacio of BIOTECH, speculative fear of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and biotechnology has prevented people from understanding the real potentials and benefits of biotechnology application in agriculture.

Dalamacio also clarified that there is more to agribiotechnology than the GMOs and expounded on how biotechnology can be applied to agriculture.

?Biotechnology is the application of any technique that uses living organisms, or a part of it, to make or modify a product, to improve plants or animals or to develop substances for specific functions. If applied to agriculture, it simply means to use living organisms or part of it, to improve the productivity of crops, livestock and the fisheries,? she explained.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: The Philippine Inquirer, Philippines

AUTHOR: Maricar Cinco


DATE:   19.04.2009

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LOS BAÑOS, Laguna -- The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is set to formally release the ?scuba rice? to Filipino farmers in time for the wet season, which could begin in May.

Scuba rice refers to rice varieties that contain the SUB1 (submergence 1) gene, which allows the rice to survive 10 to 14 days completely under water and is specifically designed to increase yield in flood-prone areas.

?We?ve known about the rice tolerance [characteristic] for more than 30 years, [but] the gene itself was discovered in mid-1990s,? said Dr. David Mackill, senior scientist of the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology Division of the IRRI.

FR13A, a rice variety from India, was the original source of SUB1 gene.

In 2003, IRRI began transferring the SUB1 gene to traditional rice varieties through the marker-assisted selection, a tool that relies on DNA markers in determining a particular trait.

?It?s the same technique for conventional rice breeding [but] is more efficient and quick to precisely introduce the gene with minimum changes to the original characteristics (of the rice),? Mackill said, adding that it was not genetically modified.

He said the rest of the characteristics, including the taste and texture of a variety, were maintained.

A similar method is also used in transferring genes for plants? resistance to diseases.

The IRRI published its research on the SUB1 gene in 2006.

At present, scuba rice varieties include the Swarna-SUB1, IR64-SUB1, RC68-SUB1, RC18-SUB1, and RC82-SUB1.

The IR64 variety is commonly called the milled rice, while RC18 and RC82 are C4 rice.

Swarna variety is considered a new line in the Philippines as it is widely produced in India and Bangladesh. 

?We anticipate farmers to like it. It is very suitable for wet season, swampy and flood-risk areas,? Mackill said.

In the Philippines, the SUB1 lines were first planted in Papaya village, San Antonio, Nueva Ecija in 2007.

Low-lying rice fields in the area were frequently submerged in flood for three or more days.

In the whole country, about 15 percent of the total rice land or about 300,000 hectares are considered flood-prone areas.

Doctor Romeo Labios, IRRI consultant, reported that one farmer whose rice land was never planted for 15 years as it was near a canal, produced five tons of SUB1 variety rice.

?Another farmer [who has] 3.5 hectares land got an average of 5.2 tons, and another with 2.3 hectares land had 4.5 tons,? he said.

According to Mackill, a rice variety without the SUB1 gene can only sustain submergence in water for a week.

The SUB1 lines, he said, could yield one to two tons more than varieties without the gene, under similar conditions of flooding.

?After the field tests, we?re quite confident we can accelerate. We have seen good and consistent results,? Mackill said.

India released SUB1 lines last month and IRRI is expecting Bangledesh to do the same ?soon.?

Mackill said that in the Philippines, the scuba rice ?can?t obviously solve the whole problem [on rice shortage], but it can make a big impact.?

The SUB1 lines will be tested, then distributed to 18 sites all over the Philippines under the GMA (Ginintuang Masaganang Ani) Rice Program.



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