MANILA, Philippines - Rosalie Ellasus has dabbled in many different
fields. From working in medical technology, to becoming an OFW,
then a farmer, and finally a leader and speaker giving testimonials
on her success, Ellasus has truly crossed many boundaries and
hurdled many obstacles to become what she is today.
It was 1987 when Ellasus worked as a nanny to two children
of an American widow in Singapore, leaving behind her family
and medical technology profession. Two years later, she moved
to Canada where she again served as a nursemaid to a Canadian
couple’s twins. While in Canada, she immersed herself
in other fields that could improve her intellectual capabilities.
In 1992, she returned to Singapore where she landed a better-paying
job as a market executive. Unfortunately, her husband died so
she decided to return to the Philippines to take care of her
Yet another transformation came when she turned to farming,
particularly production of biotechnology corn, a genetically
modified crop that has a built-in defense mechanism against
destructive corn pests.
From her savings as an OFW, Ellasus bought a 1.3-hectare farm
and tried producing corn. But aflatoxin contamination, as well
as pests and weeds that reduced her yield, made it impossible
to sell her produce.
Unfazed, Ellasus attended a 16-week Integrated Pest Management-Farmers
Field School on corn conducted in 2001 by the Department of
Agriculture. From the seminar, she changed her farm practices
and, after seeing a demonstration farm on biotech corn, she
decided to adopt the technology. She sold her bountiful biotech
corn produce to feedmills and the corn husks to local craft
producers because these were flawless and sturdy.
Subsequently, she expanded her farm to six hectares. “I
was truly convinced that a marginal farmer can improve his life
only if he will adopt biotechnology,” Ellasus asserts.
She has since become one of the country’s successful GM
In 2006, she was elected president of the prestigious Philippine
Maize Federation (PhilMaize), a national association of corn
farmers’ cooperatives. She was also elected municipal
councilor of San Jacinto, Pangasinan in the 2007 elections.
Ellasus shot to global prominence when she was chosen in 2007
as the first recipient of the Kleckner Trade and Technology
Advancement Award, named for Truth & Technology (TATT) chairman
Dean Kleckner, an internationally known farmer-leader.
The award is given for “exemplary leadership, vision
and resolve in advancing the rights of farmers to choose the
technology and tools that will improve the quality, quantity
and availability of agricultural products around the world.”
Ellasus was commended for using biotechnology to solve the
production challenges on her farm.
Over the past two years, she has also been invited to speak
at the Des Moines Roundtable Discussion on Agricultural Biotechnology
in Iowa, USA; Minneapolis Conference of the Western Canada Wheat
Association; a conference sponsored by Mexico’s Department
of Agriculture; and a farmer’s forum in Medan, Indonesia.
When Peruvian and Vietnamese government officials and scientists
visited the Philippines recently, she was tapped to share her
experiences in biotechnology farming. She is also often invited
as resource person in Philippine forums on biotechnology.
Now 49, she is featured in a book together with 64 other trail-blazers
in biotechnology crop production in 14 countries in Asia and
The book, entitled “Communicating Crop Bio-technology:
Stories from Stakeholders,” documents how farmers, media
practitioners, policymakers, industry representatives, scientists,
academicians, religious leaders, and students have benefited
from science communication efforts and how in turn they are
now part of the process of realizing a collective voice on crop
The 175-page volume was published by the New York, USA-based
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
Edited by Dr. Mariechel Jamias-Navarro, ISAAA Global Knowledge
Center on Crop Biotechnology manager, the book contains 49 articles
from stakeholders (farmers, media practitioners, policymakers,
scientists, academics, religious leaders, industry representatives
and students) in 14 countries in Asia and Africa.
Aside from Ellasus, the other Filipinos featured in the book
are former UP president Dr. Emil Javier, now president of the
National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST); multi-awarded
journalist Melody Aguiba of Manila Bulletin; Dr. Edita Burgos,
wife of the late press freedom fighter and icon Jose Burgos
Jr.; Dr. Cynthia Hendreyda, a professor and scientist at UP
Diliman; Edwin Paraluman, a successful corn farmer from General
Santos City, South Cotabato; and Fr. Emmanuel Alparce, former
executive director of the Social Action Center in Sorsogon and
now vice rector of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica
Each of those featured in the book is an important figure in
his or her field – a field that Ellasus has tended to,
both literally and figuratively.
She says, “Here in the Philippines, many farmers are
not proud of their job. I want to see them shine. I’m
just a small candle, but even the weakest flame can spread fire.”