Pay attention to GMOs, biofuels to alleviate poverty, WB exec tells RP

Dr. Derek Byerlee, representative of World Bank Philippines, citing the World Development Report (WDR) that shows failure of Third World governments to tap its agriculture potentials for growth, said these governments, including the Philippines, pay heed to these issues “especially among the agricultural sector”.
"GMOs have unrealized potential for the poor,” Byerlee told a briefing of the World Development Report at the University of Southeastern Philippines (USEP) today (December 7).

“It increases the farmers’ yield and income through savings in labor and energy, conservation of soil, increasing tolerance to climatic changes," he said.

In the case of biofuels, Byerlee said that they would “provide possible environmental and social benefits, including mitigation of climate change, and contribution to energy security through the renewable energy that will result from the use of biofuels”.
Biofuel comes in two forms: biodiesel (diesel blended with additives from vegetable oils and animal fat with coconut or soybean among others as base) and bioethanol gasoline (mix of ethanol, a light alcohol-based fuel produced by fermenting and distilling food crops such as sugar).
The WDR has urged developing countries, including the Philippines to revisit its agriculture to help their common problem on lack of jobs, low income, and underdevelopment.

Following the call of the WDR, Agriculture Undersecretary Bernie Fondevilla said his department would want the Filipinos “to invest more in agriculture since this will aleviate poverty in the country”

"Poverty is still a rural phenomenon and the Department of Agriculture is doing its best to improve agricultural opportunities for the development of the filipino farmers", he said.

In the Philippines, he said, a family of five generally earns only P6,211 per month, or a meager P74,000 per year, and that 33 percent of the population are poor. Among the 33 percent, two million are poor farmers.

"We need to invest more in agriculture. We should be like China whose rapid growth in agriculture also substantially reduced their poverty," he said.

According to the WDR, China's growth in agriculture was responsible for the rapid decline in rural poverty from 53 percent in 1981 to 8 percent in 2001.

But Fondevilla said the lack of funds among farmers and fisherfolk have kept away the poor from investing more in farming or in aquaculture. He added that “rough roads increase production losses, especially with leafy vegetable products, since farmers do not have proper storage devices to prolong the life of the vegetable plus it also easily diminishes its freshness and eventually wilts before it reaches the market”.
"We are tapping 3.7 billion for agriculture and aquaculture from credit lending conduits to help farmers and fisherfolk to invest,” he said. “We are also hoping that the government will develop more passable roads so that the produce can easily reach the market. Better roads to our farmers will reduce or production losses.”

Fondevilla said that the DA has set three goals to improve the lives of farmers and fisherfolk.

"First is to sustain food security at stable and affordable prices. Second, we want to create more jobs in the countryside. And third, this is to increase income of farmers and fisherfolk", he said.

The WRD's report has also warned developing countries to watch out for the consequences of climate change on their respective efforts to wage anti-poverty moves, including a new look at developing its agriculture.

“Climate change will have far-reaching consequences for agriculture that will disproportionately affect the poor," Byerlee said.

He suggested to government officials to come up with contingency planning across sectors saying that “this is the best way to combat climate changes…and comprises adaptation plan of action to identify immediate priorities to improve preparedness for climate change”. (Cherry Concon / MindaNews)