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Philippines
FILIPINO EXPERT IN BIOTECHNOLOGY SLAMS NEGATIVE CAMPAIGN
16-March-2009 Manila Times
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A UP Mindanao professor urged government to revolutionize its policy on biotechnology and support scientists doing work on parlaying local biological research to promote genetically improved crops in situ and thus compete or even beat their colleagues in the US, Canada, Singapore, China and Vietnam.

Dr. Eufemio Rasco Jr issued this call in his recently launched book, The Unfolding Gene Revolution, shattering myths that biotechnology can only be the domain of rich countries and proposing that government invest more funds in research and development to develop distinctly Filipino agricultural biotechnology products appropriate for the country’s soil, climate and even palate.

He spoke during a recent forum at the UP Mindanao campus in Davao City sponsored by the Initiative for Farm and Resource Management and CropLife Philippines and argued for stronger support to biotechnology research on indigenous materials.

Rasco, who specialized in plant breeding while studying at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, maintains that the country must free itself from the ideological straitjacket that biotechnology per se is evil as it meddles with nature and interferes with the work of the divine.

He slammed the anti-biotechnology lobby as contributing to the backwardness of agriculture and the scientific enterprise in the country.

“The antibiotech movement has only succeeded in scaring small companies from investing in biotechnology and some small governments from investing in biotechnology. They have unwittingly [or wittingly?] contributed to the creation of a monopoly of biotech business,” Rasco lamented.

Moreover, he said the Philippine government has been saddled by a clash at the level of policymakers, with one wing comprised of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Science and Technology clashing with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

This, despite the official pro-biotechnology slant of the executive department, Rasco added.

In calling for sustained support for research and development, Rasco recalled the cases of Vietnam, which sent students to learn the ropes of biotechnology at UP Los Baños in the 1970s, the same decade when UP Los Baños established its institute on biotechnology.

Today, Rasco lamented, Vietnam operates three different units on the life sciences, with its cadre of experts first trained on the rudiments of biotechnology in the Philippines and later deployed to the US and England for postgraduate work.

Similarly, the UP professor explained, tiny Singapore organized its biotechnology unit only in 1987 and recruited experts overseas.

Today, Singapore, with a population only a third of Davao City’s, has been recognized for its work on the puffer fish genome that led to the discovery of 1,000 putative human genes.

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SEAMEO SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center
http://www.bic.searca.org
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