17 Jan 2009

Pinoy scientist pushes biotech crops to reduce hunger in RP

A Filipino scientist is pushing for the propagation of biotechnology crops in the country to help reduce the incidents of hunger and malnutrition.

Dr. Rhodora Aldemita, senior program officer of the International Service for the Acquisition of AgriBiotech Applications (ISAAA), said biotechnology is a most viable alternative system to boost yields of crops that have been genetically enhanced to provide consumers with adequate nutrients.

Aldemita said agricultural biotechnology has succeeded in increasing yields while reducing dependence on chemical-based fertilizers, pesticides, nematicides and herbicides.

She said Filipino biotechnologists have succeeded in arming crops with resistance to pests, like the development of papaya ringspot virus (PRSV)-resistant papaya.

Among the most successful genetically modified crops in the country is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn, which was introduced in Philippine farms in 2002.

“Through advances in plant biotechnology it is now more than possible to improve the nutritional quality of food,” Aldemita said.

Numerous biotechnological studies to improve the nutritional quality of crops have been conducted such as vitamin A rice or Golden rice, she said.

Work is also being done to develop maize with low phytic acid and increased iron absorption, canola and soybean seeds with increased lysine, an essential amino acid usually absent in grains; iron-rich rice with soybean ferritin gene and potato with increased inulin, a low-calorie fiber for increased mineral absorption and colon-cancer prevention.

“Not only does biotechnology increase the nutritional value of a crop, but it also helps in ensuring that the crops reach more people in their best state through the introduction of delayed ripening characteristics,” Aldemita said.


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