An APEC conference on biosafety policy options is taking place this week in Makati City, the Philippines. Attended by more than 80 participants, the conference will serve as a forum for addressing the myriad factors that must be taken into account in developing and implementing biosafety laws and regulations, at both the national and international level.
The conference, being held from January 16 to 18, is in preparation for the APEC High-Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology to be held in Ha Noi, from 25 to 27 February.
Government policy makers and experts who are participating in the scheduled three-day conference hope to improve the ability of APEC economies to develop biosafety systems, enhance regional cooperation and promote more cohesive approaches to the regulation of agricultural biotechnology within the APEC.
Julian Adams, Science and Technology Adviser of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which co-sponsored the conference together with the Philippine's Department of Agriculture (DA) said they hope the outcomes of the three-day conference will help to tackle emerging issues on biotechnology.
He said the findings of the participants will serve as a guide when senior members of APEC economies meet in Ha Noi.
Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panganiban, who delivered the welcome remarks, stressed the significance of the conference to developing countries like the Philippines in learning from each other's experience on biotechnology.
He said the Philippines has had its share of benefits from modern technology, attributing the success of the economy's rice production program in the 1970s or the "Masagana 99" through international assistance and cooperation.
Secretary Panganiban said the Philippines' food security is anchored on new agricultural technologies and modern biotechnology offers the country its best hope.
"There are now over 85 million Filipinos. At the end of this year alone, another 2 million more will have been born. And because of dwindling farmlands, a vast number of our farmers are counted among the poorest people in the Asia-Pacific region," he said.
Speaking of the Philippine experience, Secretary Panganiban said carefully applied biotechnology could lessen the use of costly and often dangerous chemical pesticides in farms. He also said that through biotechnology, there could be substantial increase in crop yields per unit of land cultivated.
Secretary Panganiban said the Philippines is among the top 12 nations in the world where over 85% of the land is already under intense use for agriculture, housing and industry.
He said poor farmers have a better chance of increasing income without necessarily expanding the area devoted to agriculture, which is one of the problems confronting the Philippine government.