Thirty-three undergraduate students in three state universities and colleges (SUCs) successfully hurdled the requirements and have been selected in the pioneering batch for the scholarship program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Biotechnology Program.

Thirteen students from Central Luzon State University (CLSU), fifteen from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and five from Visayas State University (VSU) comprise the first batch of scholars.

The DA Biotechnology Scholarship Program program gives priority to students taking up agricultural biotechnology and related fields to promote agri-biotechnology and assist in multiplying the ingenuity in this field by supporting the education of financially-challenged but intelligent and talented students.

“With the challenges posed by high population growth rate, changing climate, decreasing production areas, and environmental factors that reduce agricultural production, it is imperative to continue to develop a cadre of well-trained and highly productive agricultural scientists to develop technologies that will help increase and sustain agricultural productivity,” said DA Undersecretary Segredo Serrano.

In the succeeding years, the Scholarship Program will be offered to more SUCs that are centers of excellence in the fields related to Agricultural Biotechnology.

The scholarship srogram also provides research mentorship from the country’s leading scientists in agri-biotechnology in partner government institutions such as Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), National Fisheries Research and Development Institution (NFRDI) and SUCs.

The official launch of the Scholarship Program is part of the opening ceremonies for the National Biotechnology Week (NBW) celebration on November 24, 2014 at the Commission on Higher Education. By virtue of Presidential Proclamation 1414 issued in 2007, the Philippines celebrates the NBW to create sustained public awareness, education, and understanding of biotechnology and highlight it as another technology option for achieving and sustaining productivity and growth.

Information from the 2014 DA Biotech Program Review revealed that, in order to ensure timely delivery of much-needed productivity-enhancing technologies of the Applied Biotech Research (ABR) component of the program, at least 10 researchers are needed to work per crop, livestock or aquaculture species.

Only 62 senior researchers are currently active in the conduct of ABR projects. Based on the Program’s goals set for the next 8 years on priority commodities, realization of these targets would be better achieved with at least 180 researchers involved in the implementation.

The scholarship program also hopes to help address the problem caused by the transfer of trained agricultural scientists to higher-paying jobs offered by private companies. (biolife news service)