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Philippines' gm crop areas surge 40% in 2005

Areas planted to genetically modified (GM) plants in the Philippines grew by 40 per cent last year, signifying Filipinos' acceptance for biotech crops, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) 2005 executive report bared.

"This unprecedented high adoption rate reflects the trust and confidence of millions of farmers in crop biotechnology," Randy Hautea, global coordinator of the ISAAA told media during the launch of the ISAAA 2005 executive report in Makati City.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn plantation has expanded to 70,000 hectares, majority of which are in Region II, particularly in the provinces of Isabela and Cagayan, and South Cotabato in Mindanao.

The Philippines is the first country in Asia to plant Bt corn commercially. The government initially allowed 10,000 Filipino farmers to plant Bt corn in over 20,000 hectares in 2003. Since then, more farmers have gone into the production of GM crops which increased their produce twice.

There are 17 transformation events (TEs) of genetically modified (GM) crops for commercial use approved by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) for food, feed or processing materials.

This includes major crops such as corn, rice, soybean, canola, potato and cotton, tomato, eggplant, and abaca, one of the most important fiber that only the Philippines and Ecuador manufacture.

Currently, the University of the Philippines in Los Banos (UPLB) is field testing its papaya resistant to ringspot virus variety, which is hoped to be commercially available in the next three years.

"Medical biotech had been around for ages, we can't find any reason why some would not accept biotech crops. These crops underwent thorough research and testing. It's proven safe," said National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) president Dr. Emil Javier.

"We are not taking any shortcuts. The NAST is calling for responsible use of biotech crops," he added. The report bared that global value of biotech crop market projected at US$ 5.5 billion in 2006, an increase from US$5.25 billion in 2005.

GM soybean also continued to be the principal biotech crop worldwide last year, occupying 54.4 million hectares (60 per cent of global biotech area), followed by maize (21.2 million hectares at 24 per cent), cotton (9.8 million hectares at 11 per cent) and canola (4.6 million hectares at 5 per cent of global biotech crop area).

In 2005, herbicide tolerance deployed in soybean, maize, canola and cotton continued to be the most dominant trait occupying 71 per cent or 63.7 million hectares, followed by Bt insect resistance at 6.2 million hectares (18 per cent) and 10.1 million hectares (11 per cent) to the stacked genes.

The latter was the fastest growing trait group between 2004 and 2005 at 49 per cent growth, compared with nine per cent for herbicide tolerance and four per cent for insect resistance.

Countries who are now planting GM crops are USA, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Paraguay, India, South Africa, Uruguay, Australia, Mexico, Romania, the Philippines, Spain, Colombia, Iran, Honduras, Portugal, Germany, France and the Czech Republic.