Wake Up, Philippines!

Negros execs vow no letup vs GMOs

Posted in BT Crops, Visayas by Erineus on April 24, 2009

By Carla Gomez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:44:00 04/23/2009

Filed Under: Food, Agriculture

BACOLOD CITY – The Negros Occidental provincial government will continue to enforce a ban on the entry of genetically modified organism (GMO) products in the province, Vice Governor Emilio Yulo said on Wednesday.

Yulo issued the statement even as another GMO corn shipment was intercepted in Victorias City and more sightings of GMO corn were reported in other parts of Negros Occidental.

Board Member Adolfo Mangao, chairman of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s committee on agriculture and author of the ordinance banning the entry of GMO products, said those criticizing the ban should have prepared for its enforcement since the ordinance was passed two years ago.

He also said that he stood by the ordinance he authored.


Ash Wednesday: Beginning of Lent

Posted in ash wednesday, Catholic Practices, Fasting and Abstinence, Lent by Erineus on February 25, 2009

Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 –  Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting
Ash Wednesday & Universal Day of Fasting and Abstinence

Today is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins the great season of Lent, when we are invited to “return sincerely to the Lord our God with fasting prayer and mourning” (Jl  2:12) and to offer to God a sacrifice of a humble and contrite spirit.  It is the time of the year when we are reminded again that we are dust, and to dust we will return. On a more positive note, we are reminded “to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

Today is universal day of fasting and abstinence. Catholics all over the world are encouraged to pray, to fast and abstain, and to share to the poor and the needy. Simply put, to do penance. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer and almsgiving (Cf. Tob 12:8; Mt 6:1-18), which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God and to others (CCC 1434).

What is penance? What does it mean to do penance? “Penance is concrete daily effort of a person, supported by God’s grace to lose his/her own life for Christ as the only means of gaining it; an effort to put off the old man and put on the new; an effort to overcome in oneself what is of the flesh in order that what is spiritual may prevail; it is a continual effort to rise from the thing of here below to things above, where Christ is. Penance is ,therefore, a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds to the Christian whole life” (JP, PR).

Penance such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving prepare us for the liturgical feast; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart (Cf. CIC, cann. 1249-1251; CCEO. Can. 882)

How do we make our penance fruitful and meaningful?

  • Let us do our penance out of personal conviction and in freedom. Let us guard ourselves of legal formalism and superficiality which the prophets had already denounced, pride and ostentations if one fasts “in order to be seen by men. It must be done in secret, with sincerity and voluntarily.
  • Let us fast, pray and share to the needy as our penance out of our love for God and neighbor. This is the greatest commandment. This is the summary of the all the laws of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.
  • “This rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread to the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked, and not turning your back on your own” (Is 58:6-8).
  • Penance finds its fulfillment, meaning and relevance only in the context of “Jesus call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes”, fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance (Cf. 2:12-13; Is. 1:16-17; Mt. 6;1-6; 16-18).

Interior repentance is a radical orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our hearts, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of the heart) (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4).

Fasting, prayers and almsgiving are interconnected and complimentary. Fasting is the soul of prayer. Mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So when you pray, fast; when you fast, show mercy.

Starting this Ash Wednesday as we begin the season of lent, strive to be humble and “return to God with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts not your garments, and return to the Lord  your God. For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13).

“Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool” (Is. 1:18)

Picture: http://www.geocities.com/info_seminars/fasting.htm

Related Article:

More farmers go for Bt corn

Posted in Agriculture, BT Crops, DA by Erineus on February 17, 2009

DON’T look now, but more and more farmers are planting Bt corn, the GMO or genetically modified corn variety that many anti-biotech people had been condemning. Last year, at least 200,000 small corn farmers planted and made money from Bt corn, planting some 350,000 hectares.

The fast increasing popularity of Bt corn with local farmers could be easily gauged by the fact that in 2005, only 10,000 hectares were planted to this transgenic crop. Last year, the figure increased 35 times.

One avid grower of Bt corn is a widow, 54-year-old Lydia Lapastora of Brgy. Yeban Norte, Benito Soliven, Isabela. She has been planting Bt corn since 2005 when the same was first allowed to be commercially grown in the country. Despite the admonition of the priest in her hometown, she planted Bt corn and is really glad she did.

Last year, Lydia planted Bt corn on 10 hectares and harvested an average of 6.4 tons per hectare. That’s almost double the average of 3.57 tons per hectare harvested by corn farmers nationwide. On the average, she realized an additional net profit of P11,000 per hectare as a result of planting Bt corn. Since she planted two times on the same area last year, she really made a significant income from this GMO

The Bt corn, by the way, is more profitable to grow because it does not require any chemical spraying against the very destructive corn earworm that damages a lot of corn crops. This resists corn attack because the gene of Bacillus thuringensis, a natural enemy of corn earworm has been incorporated in the transgenic corn. Chemical pesticides are not only expensive, they also poison the environment. That is why Bt corn is actually considered environmentally friendly.

Corn is the only genetically modified crop that is being commercially grown in the Philippines. In other countries like the United States, Brazil, China and India, millions of hectares are now planted to transgenic soybean, cotton, corn and a few other crops. Work is under way, however, on the development of transgenic papaya and eggplant. The potentials of transgenic crops are really great but adequate research and development funds are badly needed. So are the right policies of the government.

**** **** ****

FREE-RANGE CHICKEN SEMINAR IN DAVAO. There will be a seminar on raising Sunshine free-range chicken on Feb. 19, at 3 p.m. at the Grand Regal Hotel in Davao City. It will be conducted by Dr. Rey Itchon of Solraya Enterprises. Sunshine chicken is a fast-growing breed from France which grows fast and tastes like the native chicken. Email: info@solraya.com

Zac B. Sarian
Manila Bulletin

Fortified with Vitamin A RP may be first to okay ‘Golden’ rice

Posted in Agriculture, BT Crops, Health by Erineus on February 15, 2009

The Philippines may be the first to approve perhaps by 2012 the commercialization of Vitamin A-rich Golden Rice (GR) with multi-locational trials set soon and regulatory procedures in well-advanced stage.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is foreseeing the Philippines’ becoming first in the release of GR with both IRRI and the state-owned Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) collaborating on this.

“The first approved Golden Rice may be in 2012, according to IRRI, that will likely happen in the Philippines,” said International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application (ISAAA) Global Coordinator Randy A. Hautea in a press briefing.

IRRI, which is developing the genetically modified (GM) rice for the South East Asian market, has conducted its own field-testing in July last year of its GR variety and may do a second field trial this year, according to ISAAA Senior Program Officer Rhodora R. Aldemita.

Moreover, Philrice is developing its own GR variety that will even have enhanced traits including tungro-resistance and bacterial leaf blight (BLB) resistance.

Since the food crisis last year, Hautea said many companies and human welfare institutions have become aware of the need to support development of crops with important traits.

In the case of golden rice, funding comes from the Harvest Plus, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Atomic Energy Association.

Philrice’s development of GR with tungro virus and BLB-resistance is seen to strengthen the GM rice’s commercial prospect. The disease resistance is incorporated by the breeders using conventional breeding rather than genetic engineering.

Dr. Antonio A. Alfonso, PhilRice plant breeder, said that for PHilrice’s part the commercial release of GR in the Philippines may be put off beyond 2011-1012 if the Humanitarian Board and the GR Network decide to use Golden Rice 2, which has the highest level of beta-carotene.

So far, PhilRice has worked on GR1 that has lower betacarotene content than GR2. For the disease resistance, breeders used conventional breeding rather than genetic engineering.

“The targeted release on 2011 or 2012 is not yet final and may have to be modified. We have to obtain additional important data particularly on the stability and bioavailability of betacarotene in the different Golden Rice versions before the final donor will be identified. That will definitely affect the timeline for commercialization,” he said.

The GR is eyed to have a yield level similar to other newly-released varieties or at least five metric tons per hectare. PhilRice needs to conduct several seasons of multilocational field trials prior to release of GR. For this variety to get the stamp of approval by the National Seed Industry Council, it should also pass certain standards for grain and eating quality, disease and insect pest resistance and, being a genetically modified organism, biosafety.

Based on initial findings, betacarotene level in GR may fall significantly several weeks after harvest.

“Betacarotene is not stable when exposed to light, and there are enzymatic reactions within the rice grain which lead to degradation of betacarotene,” Alfonso said.

Dr. William G. Padolina, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) deputy director general, said IRRI is just stabilizing the backcrossed varieties at IRRI after which GR2 lines will be released to other rice research institutions.

It is estimated that 100 to 140 million children worldwide suffer from Vitamin A Deficiency which is causing blindness, measles, and child mortality.

While certain non-government organizations (NGO) have criticized huge budget allocation for Golden Rice as against the commodity’s value, many believe that fortifying rice with Vitamin A would be an effective and sustainable means to help Vitamin A-deficient rice-eating populations.

“For poor Filipinos, rice with a little amount of salt or a little amount of fish sauce will already make a meal (as no other),” said Dr. Evelyn Mae Tecson-Mendoza of the Institute of Plant Breeding-University of the PHilippines-Los Banos.

IRRI is also fortifying rice varieties with zinc and iron as zinc deficiency in South East Asia is reaching to 71 percent, according to Harvest Plus, while anemia arising from iron deficiency is affecting 57 percent of studied population.

IRRI plant breeders have already exceeded their targeted 24 micrograms per gram zinc content on rice while the target of 14 micrograms er gram target on high iron rice has yet to be hit at the prevent eight ug per g level.

While it is possible to combine biofortified zinc and iron-rich rice with GR, Padolina said no work on this is yet on-going.

Another genetically engineered rice is planned to be released in China . This is resistant to lepidopteran pests.

However, breeders are confident that the bio-fortified rice varieties may likely have stronger acceptability among consumers and farmers.

“We hope ( China will be the first to release a GM rice in Asia ). But we have to be careful to commercialize GM rice because we export rice to other countries. Maybe in China there’s no problem, but there (may be a problem) in the export market,” said Zhen Zhu of the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a recent biotechnology forum.

China is ready to commercialize its GM rice if not for the fear certain preparations that it hopes will also ready its export market for the rice.


RP expands Bt crop area by 100,000 hectares more

Posted in Agriculture, BT Crops, Environment, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 15, 2009

The Philippines has posted another biotechnology (Bt) crop growth with a 100,000-hectare expansion of genetically modified (GM) corn to 350,000 hectares, although expansion may later slow down as it saturates the market.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) has reported the significant 40 percent growth for 2008 from the previous year’s 250,000 hectare-area for the Asiatic corn borer-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn.

However, ISAAA Global Coordinator Randy A. Hautea said growth in the future may slow down as Bt corn is now eating up on the hybrid corn area.

“One-third of our yellow corn is now Bt corn,” Hautea said in a press briefing, implying a saturation in the market.

More technologically-advanced farmers planting hybrid rice are normally the ones who have the technical know-how and have the resources to shift to the genetically modified (GM) corn.

ISAAA attributes the fast growth of the country’s biotechnology corn area to the spread of information regarding the benefit farmers get from Bt corn. While organizations like religious ones may be blocking expansion of the technology, he said farmers in religiously-devout countries like Brazil and Argentina have influenced each other in adopting GM technologies.

This, he said, may happen in the Philippines and its neighboring countries which are now adopting biotechnology crops after the country pioneered Bt corn’s commercialization in 2002.

Already 55 countries have officially adopted biotechnology crops of which 25 including the Philippines publicly declare their approval of it.

The other countries with big areas are biotechnology areas are the United States, 62.5 million hectares; Argentina, 21 million; Brazil, 15.8 million; India and Canada, 7.6 million each; China, 3.8 million; Paraguay, 2.7 million; South Africa, 1.8 million; Uruguay, 700,000 hectares; and Bolivia, 600,000 hectares.

While certain countries have policies against-growing GM crops, 30 countries including Japan publicly declare approval for GM crops’ importation.

Moreover, in South East Asia, there are three or four countries that are growing GM crops despite non-official approval. These are Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Lydia Lapastora, an Isabela farmer who has become millionaire out of growing Bt corn, said in the same press briefing that her average yield for the Roundup Ready yellow corn, a herbicide-resistant GM corn, is at 6.4 metric tons (MT) per hectare.

Her yield even reaches to seven MT per hectare which is way higher than the 5.5 MT per hectare average for non-conventional corn.

Lapastora, a Magsasaka Siyentista 2008 awardee, said her net income for the herbicide-resistant corn has increased to P45,215 per hectare, up from P34,194 per hectare using the conventional corn.

This as she eliminated her P1,500 per hectare cost for corn borer control and as her weed control cost dropped to P1,240 per hectare in the GM corn compared to P2,750 per hectare in the conventional corn.