The Philippines is among the world’s mega producers of GM crops.
GM or gene-modified crops have genes which have been modified to provide desired planting characteristics.
The Philippines planted 900,000 hectares (has.) of GM corn, according to the latest data released yesterday by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
The Philippines is the first country in Southeast Asia to approve the commercial cultivation of a genetically modified crop for feed and food: Bt corn.
Bt stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium found in soils that naturally produces crystal-like proteins which selectively kills a few specific insect species.
Bt corn is a GM crop which has been genetically modified to be resistant to the Asiatic corn borer, one of the country’s most destructive corn pests.
The US Department of Agriculture estimates that almost 660,000 has. of Bt corn were planted by Filipino farmers from March 2018 to February 2019. A total of 7.2 million has. of land was planted with Bt corn since it was first planted in 2003.
According to ISAAA’s 2020 report, the Philippines is among 19 “mega-countries” growing 50,000 has. or more of GM crops.
It is ahead of Myanmar at No. 14 and planting 300,000 has. of GM cotton and Vietnam, No. 19 and planting 100,000 has. of Bt corn.
The United States tops the list with 71.5 million has. planted to GM corn, soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, canola, sugar beets, potatoes, papaya, squash and apples.
It is followed by Brazil (52.8 million has.), Argentina (24 million has.), Canada (12.5 million has.) and India (11.9 million has.).
In Asia, China is second to India, planting 3.2 million has. with GM cotton and GM papaya. It is followed by Pakistan, planting 2.5 million has. to GM cotton.
Twenty-nine countries have planted 190.4 million has. to GM crops. Among them are Indonesia (100,000 has. of GM sugarcane) and Bangladesh (100,000 has. of GM eggplant).
Double-digit growth rates in GM crop areas were recorded in developing countries, particularly in Vietnam, the Philippines and Colombia, according to ISAAA, a non-profit supported by major corporations that sell biotechnology products and partners with government agriculture and science agencies.
“During the Green Revolution, great leaps in productivity were achieved using machinery and chemical pesticides and fertilizers,” Dr. Paul Teng, ISAAA Board chair, said in a press briefing.
“In this period of Doubly Green Revolution, biotechnology is playing an incremental role in making farms more productive and profitable. Although the trend of large agribusinesses engaging small farmers has drawn much skepticism and even criticism, the silver lining is that smallholder farm-level productivity has great potential to multiply,” he added.