Genetically modified corn allowed farmers to earn $560 million–study


Filipino farmers earned an estimated $560 million from planting genetically modified (GM) corn in 2003 to 2014, according to data from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

The ISAAA report, titled Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2015, revealed that in 2014 alone, farmers gained $89 million. “[The data] goes to show that we have to invest in technology that will improve farmers’ income. The increase in the country’s corn supply also benefited the livestock sector,” Philippine Maize Federation Inc. President Roger Navarro told the BusinessMirror.

Globally, farm benefits from biotech crops amounted to $150 billion from 1996 to 2015. Biotech crops were commercialized in 1996.

“Up to 18 million risk-averse farmers benefited annually, of whom, remarkably, 90 percent were small, resource-poor farmers in developing countries,” the ISAAA report read.

Annually, the ISAAA said a total of 2 billion hectares of biotech crops were successfully cultivated in 28 countries during the 20-year period. In the Philippines the adoption rate of biotech maize reached 63 percent in 2015, similar to the 2014 level. The ISAAA said the total area planted with GM corn expanded for 13 consecutive years.

Last year area planted with GM corn declined by 15 percent to 702,000 hectares, from 830,000 hectares, due to drought conditions in major corn-growing areas in the country.

Average corn yield in the Philippines also rose to an estimated 2.93 metric tons (MT) per hectare, from 1.85 MT per hectare in 2003. “At a constant land area of 2.6 million hectares, maize production has provided sufficient local supply that reduced maize imports and set the country’s road to maize self-sufficiency since 2011,” the report read.

The number of small resource-poor farmers, growing on average 2 hectares of biotech maize in the Philippines in 2015, was estimated at 350,000, down from 415,000 in 2014. Biotech maize is the only GM crop commercialized in the Philippines.

ISAAA Global Coordinator and Southeast Asia Director Randy Hautea said the economic benefits of the GM variety of corn to the Philippines could be seen in the industry and family levels.

“In terms of the total performance of the corn industry, [GM corn] has helped us achieve self-sufficiency. It also supports directly the growing livestock industry of the Philippines, as well as its aquaculture, which are both dependent on feeds,” Hautea said.

On the family level, the director said all local corn farmers who planted the GM variety have reported increases in their incomes.

The Philippines is currently in the process of developing other biotech crops, namely, the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant, Bt cotton and Golden Rice.

Citing studies, the ISAAA report said the projected benefits from Golden Rice could reach $88 million per year. Benefits from Bt eggplant are projected at almost P9 million ($200,000), according to a study by Sergio R. Francisco.

However, the rollout of these new biotech crops could be delayed due to the release of a new joint department circular, which put in place a more stringent approval process for GM crops.

Earlier, the Department of Agriculture said research on Bt eggplant would even need to start from square one, as new requirements were added in each stage of the research process.

Hautea has expressed optimism that the new rules would help facilitate the adoption of other biotech crops in the country.

“We are cautiously optimistic this regulatory environment will continue to foster the Filipinos’ access and use of GM technology,” he said.a


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