Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia and members of the Philippine Embassy joined other ASEAN diplomats in the agriculture and food security conference and farm visit organized by the Department of State, the Department of Agriculture and DuPont at DuPont’s Chesapeake Farm in Maryland on 16 October 2012. With Ambassador Cuisia, were Agriculture Attaché Dr. Josyline Javelosa (5th from right); Commercial Counselor Ma. Roseni Alvero (4th from right); Economic Officer Angelito Nayan (3rd from right); and Veterans Attaché Gen. Delfin Lorenzana (2nd from right). Behind the group photo, is the combine used by one of Dupont’s contract farmers to demonstrate soybean harvesting. (photo by Embassy of the Philippines, Washigton DC)

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Philippines is open to collaborating with the United States and member-countries of the Association of Southeast Nations and share its experience on how its use of biotechnology allowed Filipino farmers to improve their productivity.

In his remarks during a recent agriculture and food security conference for the ASEAN diplomatic community Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said the Philippines is willing to share the knowledge and experience it has obtained in the 10 years that it has implemented its transparent and science-based regulatory system for products of modern biotechnology and learn from the experiences of the US and ASEAN as well.

The Philippines is considered the leader in biotechnology in Southeast Asia, being the first country in the region to have an operational regulatory system for biotech products and the first to grow a major biotech crop for food, feed and processing—the Bt corn—that was approved for commercialization in 2002.

“To date, biotechnology is contributing towards increased farmers’ incomes and food security,” Ambassador Cuisia said, citing the increase not only in the land area devoted for Bt corn production from 11,000 hectares in 2003 to 685,000 hectares in 2011 but also in the number of farmers from 10,000 in 2003 to 300,000 in 2011.

The conference, which was attended by other officials of the Philippine Embassy, was organized by the US Department of State, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and DuPont to provide a forum for participants to gather and exchange information on the role of agricultural biotechnology in achieving sustainable agricultural production.

“The Philippine Government policy is to promote the safe and responsible use of modern biotechnology as one of the means to achieve food security, equal access to health services, a sustainable and safe environment and industry development,” Dr. Josyline C. Javelosa, Philippine Agriculture Attaché, told US and ASEAN diplomats during the panel discussion of the conference at the DuPont Chesapeake Farms in Maryland, on 16 October 2012.

“This enabled Filipino farmers to increase their incomes and adopt sustainable agricultural practices,” Javelosa told participants as she cited the results of one study that said Bt corn farmers earned 38 percent more than other corn farmers. “The additional value of Bt corn to corn productivity is estimated between $100 million to $400 million.

Aside from Javelosa, the other participants in the panel discussion on “Food Security, Agriculture Technology and the Role of Government” were Jack Bobo, Senior Advisor for Biotechnology from the State Department; Dr. Pace Lubinsky, USDA Science Advisor; Dr. Judy Chambers, Director, Program on Biosafety Systems of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research; Dr. John Duesing, Sr. Director for Regulatory Science Support and Operations of DuPont Pioneer. The panel was moderated by Max Holtzman, USDA Senior Advisor.

In the discussion that followed, Ambassador Cuisia sought the comments of panel members on the warning issued by Green Peace that the approval by the Philippines of genetically modified crops will lead to a food crisis because inputs for the crops are dependent on supplies controlled by giant agrochemical corporations.

In response, the panel members said farmers are intelligent and would adopt a technology with economics as the driver. According to them, genetically modified crops like Bt corn require less insecticide. Panel members also agreed on the need to address public misperceptions about biotechnology by coming out with the best messages on its safety and benefits.

Javelosa, added that the Philippines is not considering biotechnology as the only approach to improve farm productivity and sustainability but is only one among several options it would like farmers to have access to. The Philippines is also very active in promoting organic agriculture.

The day-long event included field tours at the 3,300-acre DuPont facility in Chestertown, Maryland, that provided participants with the opportunity to see biotech crops in the field, observe harvesting activities and listen to briefings of farmers and researchers.

The program was opened by DuPont Vice President Jim Borel and USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Darci Vetter. This was followed by a presentation about DuPont and DuPont Pioneer in ASEAN by Dupont’s Director for International Government Affairs Geoff Gambles.

DuPont is a world leader in market-driven innovation and science, with expertise spanning two centuries in diverse industries in more than 90 countries, including the Philippines where it operates a crop protection plant in Carmelray, Laguna that packages fungicides, pesticides and insecticides and a corn seed plant in South Cotabato that produces and distributes high-grade hybrid corn seeds. ###