Agriculture experts: GMO, organic can co-exist

AGRICULTURE experts are saying there is no problem when a farmer is growing different crops in the same area using two different production systems like the genetically modified (GMO) corn or organic produce.

Dr. Saturnina Halos, chair of the Biotech Advisory Team of the Philippine Department of Agriculture, told delegates during an Apec forum in Iloilo City Wednesday that the Philippines is promoting genetically modified crops at the same time with organic farming.

Halos said the co-existence is possible since both farming systems would benefit the famers depending on their situation.

She said that if a famer has a small plot near the urban center, he has a good market for organically salad greens for restaurants and hotels.

On the other hand, corn farmers would sell their produce, especially the yellow corn, to feed millers along a distance. Growing the Bt corn is profitable because they can produce more than any other variety.

Bt corn, the only genetically modified crop accepted in the Philippines now, is producing more than 17,000 kilos per hectare and so far, seven countries in Asia and Pacific are producing profitably using 13 species of Bt corn.

Halos said there is no need for ordinances saying farmers with organic farms should not exist with genetically modified crop.

Any farmer should be allowed to produce crops wherein he can make the most money and still preserve the environment, she added.

Experience at the Department of Agriculture with GMO crop is almost 20 years and a lot of data show that growing the crop is environment-friendly as it reduces carbon emission to the environment.

The data also showed that reduction of pesticide in growing the GMO crops like Bt corn where farmers really make more money.

Similarly, Dr. Ernelea Cao, a faculty member of the University of the Philippines Diliman, said the use of modern agricultural biotechnology will utilize the use of novel or new combination of the genetic material called the DNA in plants, the most familiar of which is Bt corn.

The Agriculture department through the Bureau of Plant Industry is involved with the regulation, the regulatory component and utilizes experts from the academe and other research institutions for assessing the biosafety of such application.

Halos said the GMO application of others crops like Bt eggplant and Bt cotton was temporarily stopped by the Supreme Court due to petitions of other groups against the genetically modified crops. (LCP)

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