The University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) is
leading the campaign to upgrade biotechnology education nationwide
and Chancellor Dr. Rey Velasco is proud that it was his institution
that took the cudgels for it.
Dr. Velaso said UPLB has pioneered an academic program that
grants baccalaureate degrees for agrobiotechnology, which emphasizes
on using biotechnology to develop new crop varieties suited
to Philippine conditions.
In contrast to traditional plant breeding that has gestation
periods ranging from 12 years to 15 years, biotechnology can
produce new strains using shorter production cycles.
Velasco said biotechnology develops new varieties with better
qualities, something like designer plants, and these could be
armed with genetic traits that make them durable to grow under
extreme weather conditions.
“With biotechnology, because you’re directed, whatever
gene it is you need you can put in, that will shorten the gestation
period to about half the time. So in five years, six years,
there is something you can produce because you already know
what gene gives you the desired effect. Unlike before, it was
a random selection more like trial and error,” Velasco
As a result of this UPLB’s efforts, the country has already
produced Pinoy GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
“Japan is into harvesting new molecules from insects
with the use of biotechnology, serving notice that entomology
can be more than interesting. They now source new gene material
from insects. There are many tools for biotechnology and we
need to expand on them,” Velasco said. “These new
avenues for research compelled me to think seriously about BS
Agrobiotechnology as a degree,” Velasco said.
He said that the search for new genetic material to improve
the traits of plants and animals that even insects have become
a significant source.
“I saw the trend already in agriculture, that biotechnology
will be a very important tool in agriculture,” he said.