Singrow, an agri-genomics firm based in Singapore, announced last month that it was able to develop the world’s first climate-resilient strawberry (See, “ISAAA: Singaporean agri firm develops climate-resilient strawberry variety,” in the BusinessMirror, March 16, 2023). The novel strawberry variety can be grown in tropical climate, according to the company. Singrow said its goal in developing the variety is to make strawberries more affordable while reducing the environmental impact of its production.
The company noted that seasonal strawberries traditionally grown in temperate climate are exported across the world to Southeast Asia, leading to the fruit being expensive in the region. More importantly, the exports leave a huge carbon footprint. With its climate-resilient and high-yield producing qualities, the new strawberry variety can be grown at scale in tropical countries, breaking seasonal and temperature barriers and unlocking huge potential for growers while also reducing costs for consumers.
Apart from strawberries, the company is also developing other crops that could help nations address food security challenges. Planters must now rethink traditional food production methods given the impact of climate change, which has altered weather patterns. The Philippines is one of the countries that has seen first-hand the impact of changing climate, particularly on sugar production, which was recently affected by La Niña.
Policymakers, particularly those in charge of ensuring adequate food supply, should closely monitor the developments related to Singrow and genomics. The technology tapped by the Singapore-based company presents opportunities for the Philippines to develop climate-resilient crops that would help beef up the country’s food supply. It also has the potential to cut the country’s imports of pesticides, which has become expensive in recent years, as the company is currently developing disease-resistant varieties.
Genomics technology has allowed the Philippines to develop nutrient-enriched “Golden Rice,” which has already been approved for commercial planting in 2021 (See, “Filipinos may soon plant, eat Golden Rice; Bt talong good for food, feed but still needs regulatory steps,” BusinessMirror, July 24, 2021). This demonstrates the ability of local experts to come up with products that would enable the country to improve the access of Filipinos to nutritious food and defeat malnutrition. Given the necessary support, experts can come up with other products that could increase export earnings and the income of farmers who are the poorest among all basic sectors in the country, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
There’s no need for policymakers to think outside the box to ensure the country’s food security because technologies like genomics already exist, and the Philippines has enough scientists and other experts that can make use of these technologies to improve the lives of both consumers and producers. Government assistance, however, is crucial to ensure the success of these ventures.
It would do well for policymakers to remember that the Philippines is one of the countries that are vulnerable to climate change, and we are racing against time to develop strategies that would enable our agricultural sector to adapt to changing weather patterns.