At least 110 participants from the academe, government agencies and private institutions all over Zamboanga City attended the first Biotechnology Symposium held on February 24 at a local hotel and restaurant.
The event was spearheaded by the Western Mindanao State University College of Science and Mathematics (WMSU-CSM) headed by Dean Marilou Elago. It was part of the activities of the three-day 4th Breeder Science Celebration which carried the theme, “Expanding the Frontiers of Science and Mathematics Research for Social Relevance”. The activity was funded by the Biotechnology Center of the Philippines (BCP), a non-stock, non-profit organization that pursues biotechnology research, regulation, advocacy and other related concerns.
Resource persons and their respective topics were: Dr. Antonio Laureana, Research Professor, University of the Philippines, Los Baños (UPLB), “Overview of Modern Agricultural Biotechnology”; Mr. Godfrey Ramon, Science and Technology Specialist, BCP, “Products in the Pipeline and Our Own Pinoy GMOs”; Ms. Merle Palacpac, Chair, Bureau of Plant Industry Biotech Core Team, “Regulation of Biotech Crops in the Philippines: Model for Developing Countries”; Dr. Nina Gloriani, College of Public Health, UP Manila, “Ensuring the Safety of Biotech Foods”; and Mr. Abraham Manolo, Executive Secretary, BCP, “Acceptability and Adoption of Biotech Crops and their Societal Benefits”.
Dr. Laureana explained that biotechnology researches help improve the quality of agricultural produce. Products become pest-resistant, high yielding and/or nutritious, among other qualities, he revealed. The technology, he said, is now being used to delay the ripening of papayas for commercial transport purposes. He also gave the example of the golden rice which is beta carotene-enriched and which will be available in the market soon. This product is indeed good news to health buffs, he said. He likewise mentioned the pest-resistant BT corn, also a product of biotechnology, which will certainly improve corn yield and eventually benefit the farmers.
Dr. Emmylou B. Yanga, Regional Director of the Commission on Higher Education , Region IX, aptly put it in her keynote address during the opening program when she said, “Biotechnology provides new tools for improving animal health and welfare, increasing livestock productivity, increasing crop yield, developing farming practices that benefit the environment, increasing agricultural sustainability, and improving the food we consume”.
Dr. Milabel E. Ho, WMSU Vice President for Research, Extension and Development, was guest of honor during the closing program. While she hailed the benefits of biotechnology, she likewise posed the following questions: “Are we ready for biotechnology? How can we communicate or disseminate the findings of researches on biotech to keep the public informed as to their advantages and disadvantages?” Furthermore she said that “the acceptability of biotech in relation to GMO will largely depend on how people in society understand its impact on the areas of health, socio-economic and political.”
While the Biology and Natural Science faculty and students headed by Department Chair Prof. Clarito Concepcion celebrated the “World Wetlands Day” at the Pasonanca National Park on the third day of the clebration, Dean Marilou Elago, together with some CSM faculty and staff treated the biotech guests to a tour of some institutions of the latter’s interest.
At the Universal Canning Incorporated (UCI) in Ayala, Ms. Jojie Gregorio, Warehouse Superintendent, welcomed the guests. She gave an orientation on the company’s operations. The scientist in Dr. Laureana saw the possibility of an industry-academe partnership between UCI and WMSU-CSM in the area of research. According to him the heads of fishes, which are not included in the canning are rich in collagen, an important element in the field of cosmetics.
At the WMSU College of Agriculture in San Ramon, the guests visited the tissue culture laboratory and nursery as well as the production area for coco sugar. They were entertained by Dean Eriberto Salang, Dr. Teresita Narvaez and some staff. A visit at the Philippine Coconut Authority Research Center, also in San Ramon, capped the tour. (Evelyn C. Luceño, PAO-WMSU)