Sarangani, S. Kudarat target for DA’s Bt corn subsidy program

The DA is apparently distancing itself from South Cotabato, known as an "anti-BT corn hotbed." The province has an "anti-Bt corn policy."

Zaldy Boloron, DA-Central Mindanao Ginintuang Masaganang Ani program coordinator for corn, said that the planting of Bt corn under the subsidy program may start in the second quarter of next year.

He said the DA will need P6 million for the subsidy program as the DA central office announced last week that farmers who will opt to plant the transgenic crop would be given P1,200 per hectare.

Assistant Secretary for Operations Dennis Araullo said the program, which encourages the farmers to grow high-yielding crops developed through biotechnology, is aimed at boosting the country's corn productivity. He added that they want the farmers "to maximize their profit and at the same time solve the problem of hunger and poverty."

"With limited land devoted for food production and more and more agricultural lands being converted for other purposes, the only way we can increase productivity is through an advanced farming technology. Biotechnology is a solution to such problems," he was quoted as saying.

Boloron said there is a possibility that the subsidy program could extend to 10,000 hectares.

He said it is most likely to plant the subsidized Bt corn in may to June, the time when Asiatic corn borers, said to be one of the most damaging pests, usually attack the farms. Bt corn, he pointed out, is genetically engineered to resist attacks by insects like the Asiatic corn borer (Ostrinia furnacalis G.).

In December 2002, the Bureau of Plant Industry gave approval to Monsanto, a large seed company, for the commercial propagation of Bt corn. But before that, militant farmers uprooted Monsanto's Bt corn testing site in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez led the anti-Bt corn campaign, claiming there is still no worldwide scientific consensus on the safety of the transgenic crop to the human health and the environment.