The daunting problem of food security brought about by overpopulation coupled by poor food production as a result of the inevitable conversion of agricultural land for the housing needs of the people has a practical solution but it requires bold political moves on the part of the government, according to Dr. Edita Burgos, executive director of the Biotechnology for Life Media and Advocacy Resource Center (BMARC).
She said a most relevant option for policy planners is to rely on modern technologies to improve production and even introduce genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that must pass strict biosafety measures that are accepted universally.
The Philippines, by far, has been an advocate of modern biotechnology and it has practiced what it has preached by promoting safe, nutritious and appropriate biotechnology products while pursuing research and development on staple food, fruits, vegetables," she said.
She cited the steps taken by the government when President Arroyo issued a policy statement that the state will promote the safe and responsible use of modern biotechnology and its products as one of several means to achieve and sustain food security, equitable access to health services, sustainable and safe environment, and industry development.
Burgos was in Bogor, Indonesia, last week to attend a two-day Biotech Risk Communication Workshop, which kicked off last Thursday, as one of the resource persons to speak on the topic "Communicating Biotechnology - The Philippine Experience in Building Partnerships for Modern Biotechnology Through IEC and Advocacy Work."
Burgos said in the Philippines all arguments ranged against biotechnology have failed in the crucible of scientific inquiry and investigation. However, she said detractors persist in questioning the safety of biotechnology products and their impact on the environment.
"The questions raised have been debunked by science and the matter has now become a popular issue and the subject of sustained communication campaign to overcome misplaced criticism and dark prognoses," she said.
Burgos said central to the issue on biotechnology is the crucial question whether or not biotechnology can stop hunger, especially in developing countries like the Philippines.
"Unless the Philippine government restores rationality on the debate, the impediments imposed by oppositions would dampen enthusiasm and prevent the country from pursuing its flagship project as far as food security is concerned.