Filipino lawyers favor the application of agri-biotech in food and medicines, a study conducted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Development Communication (UPLB-CDC) found.
Results of the study, “Legal Discourse on Agri-Biotechnology: Implications to Lawyers’ Engagement in Biotechnology in the Philippines,” were presented to scientists and experts, as well as representatives from academe, national and international agencies/institutions, and partners from the biotech community during a recent lecture at the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca).
Dr. Cleofe S. Torres, professor at the UPLB-CDC Department of Science Communication, and Atty. Damcelle T. Cortes, assistant professor at the Institute for Governance and Rural Development of the UPLB College of Public Affairs and Development, shared some of the research findings in their ADSS lecture on “Engaging Lawyers in Agri-biotechnology: Challenges and Prospects.”
The study focused on analyzing the Philippine lawyers’ understanding and attitude toward agri-biotechnology and how these may serve as basis for defining their engagement in agri-biotech development.
Torres said results showed that despite having a low level of familiarity with key terms such as genes, viruses, golden rice, genetically modified (GM) organism contamination, processes and the existence of agri-biotech regulations in the country, lawyers still favor the application of agri-biotech in food and medicine provided that proper precautions are taken.
She said precautions include educating the public on its pros and cons, addressing risks of the technology and having a structured regulatory process.
According to Torres, the study also revealed that while lawyers perceive agri-biotech as an interesting topic, they do not yet see it as a lucrative area of legal practice.
Nevertheless, she said lawyers were found to be open to expanding their knowledge on the subject, collaborating with scientists and actively participating in regulating agri-biotech products in the country.
Furthermore, Cortes said the study also analyzed the content of legal documents related to the Bt eggplant case. She said the study found that there is a need to improve the level of science literacy among the Judiciary based on the legal arguments raised during the trial.
Cortes explained that such lack of understanding on the nature of GM crops had implications on their decision to stop the Bt eggplant field testing in the Philippines in 2015, which was overturned the following year.
The study was commissioned by the Searca Biotechnology Information Center.