Funding shortage puts the brakes on Filipino research

SARA CUPOVIC

 Evelyn Mae Tecson-Mendoza at IHC 2014. Photo: Kasun Ubayasiri

Evelyn Mae Tecson-Mendoza at IHC 2014. Photo: Kasun Ubayasiri

The Philippines has embraced biotechnologies to genetically modify high yielding crops, but a shortage of funding and experienced researchers is hampering progress, a leading Filipino researcher said in Brisbane this week.

University of the Philippines’ pioneering biotechnology researcher Dr Evelyn Mae Tecson-Mendoza said the main challenge facing biotechnology research in the Philippines was a lack of technology, but rather a lack of knowledge, funding and support.

Dr Mendoza said there was a limited number of scientists and technologists in the Philippines – just 81 scientists for every one million people – which meant researchers were often swamped with multiple projects.

Despite the difficulties, Filipino scientists have made some great breakthroughs.

“The Philippines is the first country in Asia to have successfully commercialised genetically modified food crops, such as insect-protected, or Bt corn, and herbicide-tolerant corn,” she said.

She said the Philippines has successfully introduce many GM crop including Bt cotton, Bt eggplant and golden rice, with field trials currently being undertaken for long shelf papaya.

Dr Mendoza said the Philippines government was promoting the use of biotechnology to help achieve and sustain food security.

She said, while the biosafety guidelines were perceived to be very tough by stakeholders, it was this strictness, both in the guidelines and the implementation, that had contributed significantly to the successful commercialisation of a GM food crop.

The sustainability of the technology implemented, has lead to an increase of acceptance world wide for GM food crop and there are high hopes for universal use.

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