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by Izah Morales
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CEBU, Philippines — Among the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines is the most advanced in implementing safety regulations for genetically modified (GM) crops, experts said here.

“Pinaka-advance tayo kasi we were able to commercialize GM products such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn and herbicide-resistant corn. [We are the most advanced because we were able to commercialize genetically modified products such as Bt corn and herbicide-resistant corn.],” said Reynaldo Ebora, executive director of the Philippine Council for Advance Science and Technology Research and Development (PCASTRD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

In contrast, LAO PDR and Myanmar are still in the initial stages of developing biosafety policies.

Biosafety laws in Cambodia and Malaysia were approved in January 2008 and July 2007, respectively. Meanwhile, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam that have existing regulations are conducting field trials, said Ebora during a symposium on Biotechnology and Nutritionally Enhanced Food and Crops here in Cebu.

Ebora pointed out that market acceptance of GM crops is not a problem in the Philippines.

“ Kasi ang mga farmer, mas gusto nila dahil mas mataas ang yield. Sa general public, it seems na mataas ang public acceptance. Kasi kung hindi mataas ang public acceptance, kakaunti sana ung bibili ng seeds na itatanim.Ang problema ngaun, kulang ung seeds na itatanim. [The farmers wanted Bt corn because it has higher yield. It also seems that the public acceptance is high. If the public acceptance is not high, then only few would buy seeds for planting. But the problem now is that there are few seeds.],” Ebora said.

Safety regulations GM crops can bring back trust in them, added Dr. Junshi Chen of the Chinese Center for Disease Control.

“The Chinese government has decided to give a larger amount of financial investment to further study new GMOs for the Chinese population. It is serious on safety evaluation and safety assessment of new products,” Chen said.

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