Pimentel says GM crops worth exploring, but envi group says they expose us to greater risks

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews / 25 Nov) – A former senator, who is well regarded as the champion of biotechnology, said that the opportunities presented by the genetically modified (GM) crops are worth exploring.

Former senator Aquilino “Nene” Q. Pimentel Jr., during the opening day of the 12th National Biotech Week at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) last Monday, urged the public to leave the matter to the biotech scientists “to determine whether or not GMOs or BT corns are safe not only for animal, but more specifically for human consumption.” [Read full text of his speech.]

But, in a text message on Thursday, Ateneo de Davao University’s Ecoteneo director Mylai Santos maintained their stand against the use of GM crops in agriculture.

“I am a believer and supporter of eco agriculture and sustainable food systems. GM food has no place in safe and sustainable food systems,” she said.

Santos added that both health and environment have been sacrificed with the use of chemicals in farming and “now this genetic agriculture is taking us to greater risks and threats.”

Pimentel said that he believes GM crops can help farmers be more productive and beneficial to attain food security by producing more and cheaper food for humans and farm animals.

“What I knew, then, was that the issue of BT-Corn experimental farms in some parts of the country had become so emotionally charged that some of NGOs and farmers took the law into their own hands by raiding the farms and uprooting the corn crops that had been planted there by certain foreign corporations engaged in that kind of GMO experimentation,” he said.

Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel T. Cayanan said that the government will strengthen biotechnology which will bring efficiency to the agriculture sector in the country to address the issues facing the Filipino farmers.

“Our strategy and action agenda at the department entails intensive technology updating and sharing, modernizing and mechanizing our agriculture and fisheries sector,” he said.

He said that they have devised strategies and action agenda, which include, among others, intensive technology updating and sharing, modernizing and mechanizing agriculture and the fisheries sector that will transform the agriculture and fisheries enterprise from being resource-based to being technology-based.

Cayanan acknowledged biotechnology’s role in providing workable solutions to addressing issues such as poverty, insufficient food production, frequent natural disasters like typhoons, La Niña, El Niño, and outbreaks in infectious disease.

He said that biotechnology is a “game-changer” that will strengthen agricultural productivity, food security and poverty alleviation, environmental remediation, and robust health management.

Cayanan added that they believe biotechnology can help the country attain food security amid a “galloping rise in our population and the diminishing area and quality of our arable lands.”

“With precision tools and approaches like DNA-marker assisted breeding, our scientists-researchers are working hard and fast on developing high-yielding, pest and stress-resistant varieties,” he said.

Pimentel encouraged the public to give GM crops a chance.

“If, on the other hand, the experimental farms would cause ill health to our people and to our animals or destroy the food farms of our farmers, then, the experiments would be bad for us and should be banned,” he said.

Cayanan said that the people should embrace change to uplift the agriculture sector.

“At the DA under the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, we are laying the basic foundation for a sound approach in our agriculture and fisheries program in order to achieve food sufficiency and maximum agricultural productivity,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)