Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program Office (DA-BPO) Director Antonio Alfonso said biotechnology can help in the country’s drive for food self-sufficiency and can also help us adapt to climate change.

Biotechnology can be used to improve the characteristics of crops, and it has been used in the development of climate-ready crops, he said.

He added, tissue culture, a biotechnology tool, is being used in the DA’s High Value Crops Development Program in mass propagating coconut, abaca and banana planting materials.

Biotechnology was also used in developing natural health products from indigenous Philippine plants and in the development of biopesticides for the control of insects that attack jackfruit and other crop commodities, Alfonso said.

“Presidential Proclamation 1414, issued on 2007,  stipulates the policy of government to promote the safe and responsible use of biotechnology as one of the several means to achieve and sustain food security, equitable access to health services, sustainable and safe environment and industry development,” Alfonso said at the ‘Science and Development Communicators’ Forum: Updates and Trends in Biotechnology’ held recently at the Commission on Higher Education Auditorium in UP Diliman, Quezon City.

The said forum, organized by JBurgos Media Services in partnership with the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines and supported by the DA-BPO, was held as part of the celebration of the 10th National Biotechnology Week.

According to Alfonso, because of our rapid population growth, the Philippines’ agricultural lands grow smaller every day, as rice fields give way to subdivisions and our environment gets degraded. 

As our farmlands shrink, we are faced with the challenge of producing more food, feed, fiber and even biofuels, he added, and expounded on how biotechnology can help address these challenges.

He added, biotechnology was vital in the development of drought and flood tolerant crops.

According to Alfonso, whenever there is a projection of a prolonged dry spell, drought tolerant seeds are sent to affected areas.

On the other hand, the DA promotes  ‘submarino’ rice variety, which can withstand long periods of being submerged, to flooded areas.

The ‘submarino’ type palay of the DA, he added, can withstand being submerged for 14 days.

Meanwhile, saline water and high temperature tolerant crop varieties are being developed through biotechnology, Alfonso said.

Besides helping attain food self-sufficiency, biotechnology can also help address our feed, fiber and fuel needs, he added. (DA-BPO)