Friday, June 06, 2014

How Biotech Corn Transformed a Farmer’s Life and Made Him the Community’s VIP

Ryan Lising, 39, has lived all his life in a farming community in Mandani, Magalang, Pampanga, one of seven provinces in Central Luzon, Philippines. 

Like his father before him, Ryan is a corn farmer, and corn is his family’s main source of income. Corn gives him money not only to send his four children to school, but also to help him expand his business and buy his own farm machinery. His crop also allows him to assist other corn farmers in their community. But unlike his father who planted white corn before him, Ryan plants biotech corn now — a crop that has made him an important person in their community.

Planting biotech corn has made Filipino farmer Ryan Lising an important person in his community. 
(Photo by Ian Mari Reaño)

‘It was never enough’

Before he ventured into farming, Ryan worked as a messenger and errand boy for some of the big corn farms in Mandani. When his motorcycle was stolen, he felt that he lost his family's livelihood, too.

He was helpless without the motorcycle that allowed him to move faster around the community, doing his job. Ryan then became a farmhand, working on different farms doing all available work.

“I used to wake up at four in the morning to look for work. I went from one farm to the next, hoping to get a job that will help me feed my family.”

Despite Ryan's perseverance and hard work to provide for his young family of four, it seemed that "it was just never enough".

In 1996, after participating in a corn farm demonstration, Ryan sought his father's help so he could plant white corn in the family's 1.5 hectare farmland. His income improved a bit, but his crop challenged him.

"White corn is very laborious to plant. It needs more insecticides and we need to apply granular insecticide to each plant on a daily basis depending on the level of infestation."

The challenges continued to chase him, including the low selling price of corn, on top of the relentless pests, and the high prices of insecticides needed to control them.

New life

Years went by and Ryan’s struggles with farming remained unabated. Change came in 2003 after the Philippine government approved the commercial planting of Bt corn in the country.

Ryan became one of the early adopters of Bt corn when it was introduced by seed company technicians in Mandani in 2003. Though uncertain about the new corn that the technicians introduced in the farm demonstration, his frustrations with white corn - his crop then - urged him to try it.

Following his first Bt corn harvest, it became clear to Ryan that there was no turning back. He knew that it was the beginning of a new life for him and his family, who has faced so many hardships in trying to make ends meet.

“When I realized that I will earn more if I plant Bt corn, I decided to add two more children to my brood. Sending my children to school was not that difficult anymore.”

When stacked traits corn was approved for commercial planting in the country, Ryan did not hesitate to plant it on his farm which has grown from 1.5 to more than 20 hectares.

“I have a new motorcycle now to replace the stolen one, and I was able to buy my own farm machines. I have two trucks and two tractors, and I am getting a new, bigger tractor soon.”

Ryan also has more time to spend with his family because he does not need to spend a lot of time on his farm. He also found other means of livelihood in their community.

A portion of Ryan's farm in Mandani, Magalang, Pampanga. (Photo by Ian Mari Reaño)

'An important man'

A decade of planting biotech corn has changed Ryan’s and his family’s life. His increased and steady income from planting biotech corn allowed him to explore other business opportunities.

He says that nowadays, he still wakes up at four in the morning, but not to look for work anymore.

“I go to different corn farms in our village to see their corn. I am now a corn buyer.”

Ryan uses his two trucks to transport the corn that he buys from the various farms in their village. He also buys and transports other agricultural produce such as sweet corn and vegetables, and helps the people in their village by providing them with jobs, an undertaking that makes him proud.

“Biotech corn changed my life completely. After years of planting it, I am now an important man.”

Ryan Lising is one of 397,500 farmers in the Philippines who is growing and enjoying the benefits of biotech corn in 2013. The Philippines is among the 27 countries in the world and one of the six developing countries in Asia (including India, China, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh), that are commercially planting biotech crops.

Monday, April 21, 2014

ISAAA Brief 46 Publications, Videos

ISAAA's Brief 46, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2013, written by ISAAA founder and emeritus chair Dr. Clive James, has reached over 3.7 billion media impressions 2 months after its global launch. The number of media articles has increased to 2,231 in the same period of time, with Brief 46 materials translated into 45 major languages, reaching 72 countries worldwide.

The two-page highlights of the full Brief 46, "Top Ten Facts on Global Biotech/GM Crops in 2013 has been translated and now available in 53 languages. The languages are: Amharic, Arabic, Bahasa, Balochi, Bangla, BicolanoBisaya, Brahvi, Bulgarian, Burmese, Chichewa, Chinese, Chitumbuka, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Ewe, FarsiFilipino, Finnish, French, German, Hausa, Hindi, Hungarian, Igbo, Ilokano, Japanese, Kabyè, Khmer, KoreanLuganda, Malay, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Sindhi, Siraiki, Slovak, SpanishSwahili, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh, and Yoruba. The translations are available for download at:

The Executive Summary, a 13-page document summarizing information on hectarage, adoption, and benefits of biotech crops in 2013, as well as its future prospects, is now available in 12 languages: Arabic, Balochi, Brahvi, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, and Ukrainian. The translations are available for download at:

ISAAA Brief 46 is also summarized and presented in four videos: 

More information about ISAAA's Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013 are available at ISAAA's website at Various information resources, including the Executive Summary and its translations, Top Ten Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2013, Powerpoint Slides, Infographics, and videos are all available for download from the same link.

For more information about ISAAA, visit, or follow ISAAA on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

ISAAA Network Meets in Hanoi

Members of the ISAAA network from 15 countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa gathered together for an annual meeting at Hilton Garden Inn in Hanoi, Vietnam on March 18-19, 2014. Thirty-eight members of the network attended the meeting to evaluate and discuss discuss their knowledge sharing initiatives on biotechnology.

In his welcome message to the group, AgBiotech Vietnam Director Mr. Le Van Tien acknowledged ISAAA as the leading organization sharing knowledge on biotechnology, while Vietnam Institute of Agricultural Genetics Director General Dr. Le Huy Ham said that it is a great experience that representatives of Biotechnology Information Centers (BICs) from different parts of the globe convene to strategize on how facts on biotechnology will move forward to the stakeholders. He added that efforts of the BICs will all lead to a greater impact for the future, especially for Vietnam where food security is at risk due to shortage of land, increasing population, and climate change. 

ISAAA Chair Dr. Paul S. Teng facilitated a discussion to synergize the efforts of ISAAA and the BICs to achieve individual and institutional targets. Highlights of research on farmer adoption in Asia, science communication among scientists and academics in Asia, and biotech approvals were also shared with the team. Popular techniques in disseminating information were also discussed during the hands-on workshops on videography and infographics. 

For more information about ISAAA, the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology and Biotech Information Centers, visit the website at:, or follow ISAAA on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2013 Seminars in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Philippines

A month after the international launch of ISAAA's 2013 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in Beijing, 10 countries in Asia have held their respective launches and media seminars. ISAAA's monitoring of the tri-media shows that one month after the international launch, Brief 46 has been mentioned in 1,933 news articles and 1,777 social media posts in 77 countries with a total impression data of 2,147,275,067.

Our previous blog posts discussed the country launches in China, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar. The following are summaries of the events in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and the Philippines.


In Bangladesh, the seminar/launch for ISAAA Brief 46 was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on February 26. The event was highlighted by the keynote speech of Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury. Minister Chowdhury said that "Being an overpopulated country, we will not hesitate in using biotechnology if it is proven to be useful and safe for human, animal and for the environment." She urged scientists to develop new crop varieties through frontier research using biotechnology to combat the environmental hazards like salinity, drought, submergence, and cold.

Bangladesh Biotechnology Information Centre (BdBIC) and ISAAA, in collaboration with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) organized the seminar which was attended by around 350 policy planners, academicians, researchers, extension officers, research students, and journalists.

Dr. James (third from left) is joined by Minister Chowdhury during the launch of Brief 46 in Dhaka.


The Jakarta, Indonesia seminar was held on February 28, and was attended by 128 people. Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan of Malaysia BIC joined Dr. Clive James and Dr. Randy Hautea by giving a presentation "Communicating Agri-biotech: Scientific Accuracy vs Popularized Myths." Two interviews for release on television were conducted featuring Dr. Clive James.

Drs. James and Hautea was joined by Dr. Arujanan during the launch in Jakarta.


A media conference was held on March 6, 2014 at Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati City, with more than 60 people in attendance, composed of multi-media journalists, members of the academe, government agencies, private sector, non-government organizations, and local government units. At the conference, ISAAA Chair Dr. Paul Teng talked about food security and how biotech crops help contribute in various aspects of food security, such as improvement of nutrition and agricultural productivity. ISAAA Global Coordinator and SEAsiaCenter Director Dr. Randy Hautea presented the global status, trends, and significant benefits of biotech crop adoption.

Resource persons of the media conference in Makati are (Left to right): DA Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano, ISAAA Global Coordinator and SEAsia Center Director Dr. Hautea, ISAAA Chair Dr. Teng, SEARCA Director Dr. Gil Saguiguit, and Former University of the Philippines President and UPLB Chancellor Dr. Emil Q. Javier.

More information about ISAAA's Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013 are available at ISAAA's website at Various information resources, including the Executive Summary, Top Ten Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2013Powerpoint Slides, Infographics, and videos are all available for download from the same link.

For more information about ISAAA, visit, or follow ISAAA on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2013 Seminars in Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar

ISAAA’s 2013 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops, also called ISAAA Brief 46, has been launched in 7 countries in Asia since its international release in Beijing, China on February 13, 2014. Close monitoring of the tri-media shows that two weeks after its launch, Brief 46 has been mentioned in 1,312 news articles and 1,057 social media posts in 66 countries with a total impression data of 1,148,573,861.

The previous blog post discussed the country launches in China, South Korea, and Japan. Following are summaries of the events in Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar.


In Vietnam, around 126 representatives of media (radio, print, and online), universities, government agencies, and private institutions and companies attended the seminar at Hanoi’s Sofitel Plaza, where Brief 46 was launched on February 20, 2014. The author, Dr. Clive James, presented the highlights of the report including the benefits and future prospects of biotech crops. Other speakers include ISAAA Global Coordinator Dr. Randy A. Hautea, who discussed the impact of biotech corn in the Philippines; ISAAA Chair Dr. Paul Teng talked about food security; and Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre Executive Director Dr. Mahalectumy Arajanan made a presentation on how to communicate biotechnology.

Dr. Clive James at the media conference in Hanoi on February 20.


Around 100 representatives from radio and print media attended the press conference and seminar held at the Rama Gardens Hotel in Bangkok on February 21, 2014. Dr. Clive James, author of Brief 46 was asked about GM food safety and biotechnology for biofuel production.

Dr. James at the seminar in Bangkok with Dr. Sutat Sriwitanapongse (left) and Dr. Supat Attathom (right) from Thailand Biotechnology and Biosafety Information Center.


On February 24, 2014, Brief 46 was launched during an agriculture seminar in Nay Pyi Taw, the new capital city of Myanmar. Myanmar's Union Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, H.E. U Myint Hlaing was present at the seminar and stressed the importance of adopting the appropriate modern technologies including biotechnology in crop production. The event was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MOAI) in collaboration with the National Social and Economic Advisory Council (NSEAC) and ISAAA.

Dr. James presents a replica coin of Dr. Norman Borlaug Congressional Gold Medal to Union Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation H.E. U Myint Hlaing in the presence of Dr. Tin Htut Oo, Chairman of National Economic and Social Advisory Commission and Dr. Tin Htut, Rector of Yezin Agricultural University.
The Minister said “Given the limitation in current activities in plant biotechnology, we have to extend the research activities of plant biotechnology in the near future of which strengthening of technical capacity and human resource development is crucial."

A media conference was also held in Yangon, Myanmar on February 23, which was attended by around 40 tri media practitioners and the private sector.

Updates on the events in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Jakarta, Indonesia will be posted here next week.

More information about ISAAA's Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013 are available at ISAAA's website at Various information resources, including the Executive Summary, Top Ten Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2013,Powerpoint Slides, Infographics, and videos are all available for download from the same link.

For more information about ISAAA, visit, or follow ISAAA on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Friday, February 21, 2014

Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2013 Seminars in China, Korea and Japan

Since 1996, during the first year of commercialization of biotech crops, ISAAA has released the annual “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops”, a Brief documenting the latest information on the global status of commercially approved biotech crops. Year after year, ISAAA prepares the Brief and supports its free distribution to developing countries to provide information and knowledge to the scientific community and facilitate a more informed and transparent discussion regarding the potential role of biotech crops in contributing to global food, feed, fiber and fuel security, and a more sustainable agriculture.

The 2013 Global Status Brief is the 18th such publication in its series, and documents the global database on the adoption and distribution of biotech crops in 2013, when 18 million farmers from 27 countries worldwide planted 175.2 million hectares of biotech crops. Below are summaries of the country launches held for ISAAA's 2013 Global Status Brief.


The 2013 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops Brief was launched at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) in Beijing, China, on February 14, 2014. The launch was held during the Crop Biological Breeding Industrialization Summit 2014, an event attended by more than three hundred participants from China’s scientific and academic community, government agencies, private sector and media. The summit featured a seminar by Dr. Clive James, author of the Brief and ISAAA’s Founder/Emeritus Chair. ISAAA’s Chair Dr. Paul Teng, discussed Food Security: A Defining Issue for Asia.

Dr. James at the media conference in Beijing on February 13.

On February 13, a day before the summit, the Brief was also launched at its first media conference in Beijing, attended by 40 journalists from 35 media outlets. Dr. James was interviewed by China’s CCTV News, China Business Journal, China Economic Observer, Caixin Media,, China National Radio, Health News, and Science News Bi-weekly. Journalists from international media outlets such as Reuters, Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg News Week also interviewed Dr. James.


In Seoul, South Korea, Dr. James presented to members of the media the 2013 global status of biotech crops. Around 20 journalists from Seoul attended the media seminar, and asked Dr. James about the status and development of commercialized biotech crops in Europe, climate change and biotech crops, and the possible solutions to public mistrust and awareness about GM crops.

Dr. James delivers his presentation to members of the media in Seoul.


Around 100 participants attended the media seminar in Tokyo, Japan, with Dr. Masahiro Suzuki of the Council for Biotechnology Information in Japan as seminar chair.

Dr. James gives an overview of his presentation to the audience in Tokyo.

For more information about ISAAA's Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013, visit the website at Various information resources, including the Executive Summary, Top Ten Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2013, Powerpoint Slides, Infographics, and videos are all available for download from the same link.

For more information about ISAAA, visit

Thursday, February 13, 2014

18 Million Farmers in 27 Countries Planted 175.2 Million Hectares of Biotech Crops in 2013

The 2013 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GMCrops, authored by Clive James, Founder and Emeritus Chair of ISAAA, reports that a record 175.2 million hectares of biotech crops were grown globally last year, at an annual growth rate of 3%, or 5 million hectares more from 2012.  The global hectarage of biotech crops have increased more than 100-fold in 18 years, from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 175.2 million hectares in 2013, making biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent history.

Developing Countries Planted More Biotech Crop Hectares
Eighteen years since the first commercial planting of biotech crops, and for the second consecutive year since 2012, developing countries planted more biotech crop hectares than industrial countries, producing 54% of the total global production in 2013. Of the 27 countries that planted biotech crops last year, 19 were developing, while only 8 industrial countries planted biotech crops. 

More Farmers Are Planting and Replanting Biotech Crops
From 1996 to 2013, millions of farmers in almost 30 countries worldwide, elected to make more than 100 million independent decisions to plant and replant an accumulated hectarage of more than 1.6 billion hectares. In 2013 alone, a record 18 million farmers grew biotech crops, up by 0.7 million from 2012, of which more than 90% or over 16.5 million are small, resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

In China, 7.5 million small farmers benefited from biotech cotton, and in India there were 7.3 million beneficiary farmers. In addition to economic gains, farmers benefited enormously from at least 50% reduction in the number of insecticide applications, reducing farmer exposure to insecticides, and importantly contributed to a more sustainable environment and better quality of life.

Women farmers rest on a heap of Bt cotton bolls in China.
Clean Bt cotton bolls make farmers smile in India.
Farmers from Latin America, Asia, and Africa collectively grew 94 million hectares or 54% of the global 175 million biotech hectares (versus 52% in 2012), compared with industrial countries at 81 million hectares or 46% (versus 48% in 2012), almost doubling the hectare gap from 7 to almost 14 million hectares between 2012 to 2013, respectively. This trend is expected to continue, and is contrary to the prediction of critics who, prior to the commercialization of the technology in 1996, prematurely declared that biotech crops were only for industrial countries and would never be accepted and adopted by developing countries, particularly small poor farmers.

The USA is Still the World’s Lead Producer of Biotech Crops
 The USA continued its leadership in producing biotech crops in 2013 with 70.1 million hectares, an average adoption rate of ~90% across all biotech crops. Since 2006, the USA has planted eight biotech crops, namely: maize, soybean, cotton, canola, sugar beet, alfalfa, papaya, and squash. 

Brazil Continues To Be The Engine Of Biotech Crop Growth Globally
Brazil ranks only second to the USA in biotech crop hectarage in the world with 40.3 million hectares, but emerging as a strong global leader in biotech crop production. For the fifth consecutive year, Brazil increased biotech crop plantings more than any other country in the world.

Progress in Africa
In Africa, continued progress has been made with Burkina Faso and Sudan increasing their Bt cotton hectarage substantially. In 2013, South Africa’s biotech hectarage was marginally less, but practically at the same level as 2012. Encouragingly an additional seven African countries (Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda) have conducted field trials on a broad range of “new” biotech crops (cotton, maize, bananas, and cowpeas), including several orphan crops such as sweet potato. 

A Bt cotton farmer in his field in Burkina Faso.
Five EU Countries Planted Biotech Crops in 2013
Five EU countries, planted a record 148,013 hectares of Bt maize in 2013, with Spain leading with a record 136,962 hectares of Bt maize. The remaining EU countries that planted biotech crops in 2013 are Portugal, Romania, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

Contribution of Biotech Crops to Food Security, Sustainability and Climate Change
From 1996 to 2013, biotech crops contributed to Food Security, Sustainability and Climate Change by:
·         increasing crop production valued at US$116.9 billion;
·         providing a better environment, by saving 497 million kg a.i. of pesticides; in 2012 alone reducing CO2 emissions by 26.7 billion kg, equivalent to taking 11.8 million cars off the road for one year;
·         conserving biodiversity in the period 1996-2012 by saving 123 million hectares of land; and
·         helped alleviate poverty by helping >16.5 million small farmers, and their families totaling >65 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world.

Future Prospects
The near-term looks optimistic with more modest annual gains expected due to the already high rates of adoption (90% or more) in the principal biotech crops in mature markets in both developing and industrial countries. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Panama approved biotech crop planting in 2013 with plans for commercialization in 2014.

For more information about ISAAA, visit the website at

The Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013 information resources, including the Executive Summary, Top Ten Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2013, Powerpoint Slides, Infographics, and videos are all available for download at: