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DA asked to push for biotech law

Corn farmers belonging to the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PhilMaize) urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to push for a law that would protect the right of Filipino farmers to plant and distribute genetically modified (GM) crops.

PhilMaize Chairman Emeritus Rod Bioco said a measure that would govern the agricultural biotechnology sector should be passed by Congress.

Bioco noted that the Supreme Court ruling in December 2015 almost paralyzed the agricultural supply chain comprising corn farming, feed milling, and the livestock and poultry sectors.

“The lack of an agricultural biotechnology law opens up the food-supply chain to these legal distortions, which we would want to remedy via a piece of legislation in Congress,” he said in a statement.

Bioco said there is a need to ensure the country’s food security in view of climate change.

If not for the newly drafted GM regulations under the joint department circular crafted by five agencies, PhilMaize said the local feed milling and livestock industries will have no access to imports of soybean meal that is used for manufacturing animal feeds.

While the importation of soybean meal has resumed since the circular took effect on April 15, PhilMaize said threats from anti-GM groups still persist.

“Farmers should be given the freedom to choose what could be best for them. So far, GM corn has increased our yields and our income over the last 14 years,” PhiMaize President Roger Navarro said.

In crop year 2014-2015 Philippine corn output reached 7.553 million metric tons (MMT), which is slightly lower than the 7.671 MMT recorded the previous crop year, PhilMaize said, citing data from the US Department of Agriculture.

Navarro said the decline in output could be attributed to El Niño as some areas, particularly in Northern Mindanao, were badly hit by the drought.

Northern Mindanao is the second-biggest corn-producing region, next to Luzon’s Region 2.

Corn is planted in 2.5 million hectares of land in the Philippines. Average yield is pegged at 4 metric tons per hectare.

The direct beneficiaries of the corn industry are 11 million Filipino farmers, farmworkers and those employed in the food manufacturing sector.

The Philippines produces mostly yellow corn, where 70 percent goes to feed mills, while 30 percent are used for food, such as oil and starch.

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