Wake Up, Philippines!

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.