Biotechnology has allowed Filipino scientists to hasten the development of new crop varieties, cutting breeding processes by at least five years, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
“Biotechnology helps improve rice like it does to soy sauce, bread and beer. Through biotechnology, varieties are developed [from] five to seven years. In conventional breeding, it takes 10 years to 12 years,” said Roel R. Suralta, head of DA-Crop Biotechnology Center, in news statement issued on Monday.
The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), an attached agency of DA, said it has developed 14 climate change-ready varieties through biotechnology, with some of these being resistant or resilient to drought, flas flood and salinity.
Varieties include Tubigan 7 (NSIC Rc142), the country’s first product of marker-aided selection; Tubigan 3 (NSIC Rc130), PhilRice’s first variety developed through anther culture; and Submarino 1 (NSIC Rc194), which can survive after submergence in floodwater for two weeks.
Suralta said farmers could gain more income as biotechnology-developed rice varieties are 35 percent more productive than high-yielding varieties in the market.
“Promoting these varieties is one of the things that we can do to help the farmers,” he said. “Cleaner and greener environment is also expected through varieties that have high resistance to diseases and harmful insects.”
PhilRice noted there is a need to produce climate change-ready varieties, as the Philippines is among the top 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change.
“The Global Climate Risk Index for 1996 to 2015 showed that the country suffered $2761-million loss from the 11,000 extreme weather events during the period,” it said.