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by Joe Galvez
07-August-2005 Manila Bulletin

ILAGAN, Isabela- The province of Isabela has been at the forefront of biotechnology in the last five years, and everyone in academic circles would invariably point to one of Isabela State University (ISU) prominent mentors as deserving of credit for this.

Dr. Helen Ramos has been the spearhead of the biotechnology campaign here as far as agriculture is concerned.

She is the head of the ISU Biotechnology Information Center (BIC), a one-stop-shop center where everything a student or researcher needs to know about biotechnology and its related fields can be easily accessed.

As head of the ISU College of Arts and Sciences, Ramos has been advocating the safe propagation of biotechnology. She is also the main link to the province's local government units (LGU) and their agricultural officers.

Providing the LGU;s with a logical and pragmatic understanding of how technology can be made to work for people, Ramos has earned the respect of mayors and Sangguniang Bayan members who now accept the fact that biotechnology is a critical key to food security and poverty alleviation.

"Biotechnology has been with us since time immemorial and traditional biotechnology has gradually been integrated into the culture of man," Ramos said. "Therefore the products are gradually accepted without much controversy."

On the other hand, Ramos said, modern biotechnology has created controversy primarily because the scientists; expertise on the subject and the methods they employ are complicated- not to mention the sophisticated apparatus they use.

'Although it started several decades ago, the thought of seeing biotechnology products still comes as a surprise to laymen," Ramos said. "It also created a lot of fuss due to misconception and misinformation bandied about by anti-biotechnology groups."

Ramos explains that the advantages of modern biotechnology are confronted by ethical and biosafety issues.

Being a member of the Institutional Biosafety Committee, she is very much concerned about the long-term effects of biotechnology on human health and natural diversity that have caused some institutions to resist adoption and use of crops developed through biotechnology.

However, Ramos said the potentials of modern biotechnology are so great to be ignored.

"This is why we acknowledge that conventional farming technology will not be able to meet production demands in the future Agriculture biotechnology will be an essential component of any global food security strategy, in fact, which is being envisioned by a government to pole vault agricultural modernization in the coming years."

Ramos said Region 2 is considered to be the food basket of the Philippines and is one of the potential adaptors of agricultural biotechnology.

"It is imperative that the people are properly informed and educated so that they could fully explore the potential benefits from this technology," Ramos said. "Although the ISU-BIC started its information drive in 2001, it is apparent that there is still a dearth of information on this high-end science that needs to be aired."

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