Monday, December 11, 2017

Clive James and ISAAA: Top Sources of Info on Biotech in the Philippines

News writers often solicit supporting information about their stories from various sources through interviews or readily-available references. The “voices” behind the stories usually have an impact on how stories are told.

The study Seventeen Years of Media Reportage of Modern Biotechnology in the Philippines, published in the April 2017 issue of the Philippine Journal of Crop Science, reported that Dr. Clive James, the Founder and Emeritus Chair of ISAAA, is the top source of information on biotechnology by news writers. The study analyzed articles reporting on modern agri-biotechnology that were released in major Philippine newspapers including Manila Bulletin, Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer and Business Mirror (for 2010-2016 only).

The researchers listed the sources of information cited in each of the 2,219 articles on biotechnology released from 2000 to 2016. Each of the sources were categorized as government source, environmental group, international organization, R&D institution, private industry company, and others.

In the first 10 years of biotech reporting from 2000-2009, most of the sources of information were from government agencies/representatives (37%), followed by environmental groups (22%), and international organizations (16%). The second part of the study (2010-2016) revealed that government sources remained on top (37%), followed by international organizations (23%), and environmental groups (17%).

Though most of the sources were from the government, there were numerous personalities and agencies mentioned. For instance, in the last 7 years (2010-2016), there were about 547 different information sources cited and none of which were individually mentioned more than 33 times. 

The most frequently mentioned source during that time period of seven years was the world-renowned biotech expert, Dr. Clive James (33 times) and the organization he founded, ISAAA (31 times). The articles citing Dr. James and ISAAA usually quoted details from their annual report on global adoption of biotech crops. In 2016 alone, the ISAAA report titled 20th Anniversary (1996 to 2015) of the Global Commercialization of Biotech Crops and Biotech Crop Highlights in 2015 (ISAAA Brief 51) was mentioned in 2,843 articles worldwide including top news agencies such as USA Today, New YorkTimes, and  Financial Times, reaching 4.45 billion media impressions. Being the top source of information in the Philippine newspapers imply that several writers perceive that Dr. James and ISAAA are credible sources of information, particularly on biotech crop adoption and its benefits.

Daniel Ocampo, who used to work as Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, was mentioned 28 times in the articles. He was one of the activists that uprooted the Bt eggplant on field trial at the University of the Philippine Los BaƱos (UPLB) in 2011.

The top government officials quoted in the articles were Proceso Alcala (mentioned 26 times), who was the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary from 2010-2016; and Dr. Antonio Alfonso (mentioned 24 times), a plant scientist and Director of the DA Biotechnology Program Office from 2013 to 2015.

The other sources of information mentioned over 10 times from 2010 to 2016 were:

  • Candida Adalla, previous head of DA Biotechnology Program Office
  • Emil Q. Javier, National Academy of Science and Technology president, former UP president and UPLB chancellor
  • Roger Navarro, Philippine Maize Federation president
  • Randy A. Hautea, ISAAA Global Coordinator and Director of ISAAA SEAsiaCenter
  • World Health Organization
  • Chito Medina, Environmentalist and Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) National Coordinator
  • Clarito Baron, former director of Bureau of Plant Industry
  • Segfredo Serrano, Agriculture Undersecretary for Policy
  • Desiree Hautea, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II Regional Coordinator and Product Development Manager
  • Gil C. Saguiguit, Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) Director
  • Greenpeace

Out of the top 16 sources of information, there were only three persons/groups that were categorized as belonging to environmental/civil society groups. Mostly were scientists and government officials.

Through the years, the prominent role of “authoritative voices” such as researchers and government representatives was demonstrated along with lesser use of technology critics as information sources. Apart from the government agencies and research institutions, international organizations such as ISAAA are now seen as credible sources of information on biotechnology because they promote themes that are more encompassing in nature such as “rural development, sustainable agriculture, food security.” They also usually portray a more balanced stance than the campaigns of private companies and environmental groups.

Written by Kristine Grace N. Tome, Program Associate at ISAAA.  

Tome, Kristine Grace N., Mariechel J. Navarro, Sophia M. Mercado, and Maria Monina Cecilia A. Villena. 2017. Seventeen Years of Media Reportage of Modern Biotechnology in the Philippines. Philippine Journal of Crop Science 42(1): 26-35.

ISAAA. 2017. From Fear to Facts: 17 Years of Agri-biotech Reporting in the Philippines (2000-2016).

Monday, June 05, 2017

ISAAA Brief 52 Launched in Beijing, Manila, Yogyakarta, and Tokyo

ISAAA has released the 21st Brief in its global status of commercialized biotech/GM crops series in Beijing, China on May 4, 2017. Brief 52 companion documents include the Executive Summary (available in six language translations), press release (available in nine language translations), infographics, video, and Powerpoint slides available at the ISAAA website.

Year after year, ISAAA prepares the global status report 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 2016 Global Status Report documents the global database on the adoption and distribution of biotech crops in the world in 2016, when ~18 million farmers from 26 countries planted 185.1 million hectares of biotech crops. Below are summaries of the country launches held for the 2016 Global Status Report.


Brief 52 was launched in two events held on May 4 and 5, 2017 in Beijing, China, organized in cooperation with China Biotechnology Information Center, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the Chinese Biotechnology Society.

The media conference held on May 4, 2017 at China Wold Hotel was attended by some 40 journalists from Chinese and international news agencies. ISAAA Chair, Dr. Paul Teng, presented the highlights of the report, while ISAAA Senior Program Officer, Dr. Rhodora Aldemita, talked about the development and adoption of biotech crops in Asia.

On May 5, a seminar was held at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which was attended by 120 scientists, members of the academe, and students. Drs. Teng and Aldemita presented the highlights of 2016 report. Mr. Zhang Xianfa from the Ag GMO Division of the Ministry of Agriculture discussed the status of Chinese biotech crops regulation and development. The participants signified their interest in the adoption of more biotech crops in the country to benefit not just the farmers and their families, but also the consumers.

Read the Crop Biotech Update article here. 


On May 19, 2017, media practitioners, farmers, and government agency officers attended the Brief 52 launch in Manila during a media conference at the Acacia Hotel, Alabang, Muntinlupa City, Philippines.

Dr. Teng presented the report, including the global impact and future prospects of biotech crops. SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. said that the 2016 figures surpass previous records and attest to the effectiveness and benefits of biotechnology. 

Officer-in-Charge and Director of the Bureau of Plant Industry and Director of the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Biotechnology Program of the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Vivencio R. Mamaril, reported on the biosafety regulatory developments in the country, particularly the harmonization of the Joint Department Circular by the five government departments, namely the Departments of Agriculture; Science and Technology; Environment and Natural Resources; Health; and the Interior and Local Government. The JDC is the latest biosafety regulatory guidelines for biotech crops in the Philippines, and is expected to regulate the testing and commercialization of other biotech crops in the pipeline, including Bt eggplant, PRSV-R papaya, Bt cotton, and Golden Rice.

Read the Crop Biotech Update article here.


Brief 52 was launched at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia on May 23, 2016 during a one-day national seminar on biotechnology. The event, organized by ISAAA and the Indonesian Biotechnology Information Centre (IndoBIC) was attended by some 90 members of the academe, local government representatives, media practitioners, and students. Ir. Arofa Noor Indriani MSI, Director of Food Security Agency of Yogyakarta Province, graced the event and gave the welcome message.

Dr. Aldemita presented the 2016 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops. Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan, Executive Director of the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC), gave an overview of biotech/GM crop adoption in Asia, while Dr. Muhammad Herman discussed the research and development of biotech product and its regulation in Indonesia. Scientists from Gadjah Mada University, Bogor Agricultural University, and Yogyakarta province presented updates on agri-biotech research.

Drs. Aldemita and Arujanan, together with IndoBIC Director, Prof. Dr. Bambang Purwantara, and Dr. Herman were guests on live television interviews on Jogja TV on May 22, and Kompass TV on May 23.

Read the Crop Biotech Update article here.


Dr. Aldemita presented the highlights of Brief 52 at the seminar launch of ISAAA at Asahi Seminar Hall, Tokyo, Japan on May 30, 2017. The seminar launch was organized by CBIJ and NBIC with 120 participants, including the media, government representatives, academe, and the industry. 

During the seminar launch, Dr. Fusao Tomita, director of Nippon Biotechnology Information Center (NBIC) opined that Hokkaido farmers are interested in planting biotech sugar beet and consumers should be educated on substantial equivalence of sugar derived from biotech and non-biotech sugar beet.

Read the Crop Biotech Update article here.

More information about ISAAA Brief 52 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016 are available at the ISAAA website.

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

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Biotech/GM Crops Surge to a New Peak of 185.1 Million Hectares in 2016

Global area rebounds from 2015 as farmers continue to adopt biotech crops 

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) has released the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016its annual report showcasing the 110-fold increase in the global adoption rate of biotech crops in 21 years of commercialization – growing from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 185.1 million hectares in 2016. The 2016 Report continues to demonstrate the long-standing benefits of biotech crops for farmers in developing and industrialized countries, as well as consumer benefits of recently approved and commercialized varieties. 

“Biotech crops have become a vital agricultural resource for farmers around the world because of the immense benefits for improved productivity and profitability, as well as conservation efforts,” said Dr. Paul S. Teng, ISAAA Board Chair. “With the commercial approvals and plantings of new varieties of biotech potatoes and apples, consumers will begin to enjoy direct benefits of biotechnology with produce that is not likely to spoil or be damaged, which in turn has the potential to substantially reduce food waste and consumer grocery costs.”

The adoption of biotech crops has reduced CO2 emissions equal to removing ~12 million cars from the road annually in recent years; conserved biodiversity by removing 19.4 million hectares of land from agriculture in 2015; and decreased the environmental impact with a 19% reduction in herbicide and insecticide use (Brookes and Barfoot, 2017, Forthcoming). Additionally, in developing countries, planting biotech crops has helped alleviate hunger by increasing the incomes for 18 million small farmers and their families, bringing improved financial stability to more than 65 million people. 

“Biotechnology is one of the tools necessary in helping farmers grow more food on less land. However, the promises of biotech crops can only be unlocked if farmers are able to buy and plant these crops, following a scientific approach to regulatory reviews and approvals.”

- Dr. Randy A. Hautea, ISAAA Global Coordinator

As more varieties of biotech crops are approved and commercialized for use by farmers, ISAAA expects to see adoption rates continue to climb and to benefit farmers in developing countries. For example, among African nations where regulatory processes have traditionally created barriers to biotech crop adoption rates, advances are being realized. In 2016, South Africa and Sudan increased the planting of biotech maize, soybean and cotton to 2.66 million hectares from 2.29 million hectares in 2015. Elsewhere on the continent, a new wave of acceptance is emerging as Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Swaziland and Uganda make advances in regulatory review and commercial approvals for a variety of biotech crops.

“Even with a long history of regulatory barriers, African farmers continue to adopt biotech crops because of the value they are realizing from the stability and productivity of biotech varieties,” said Hautea. “As more countries move forward with regulatory reviews for crops such as bananas, cowpeas and sorghum, we believe biotech crop plantings will continue to grow in Africa and elsewhere.”

Also in 2016, Brazil increased biotech area of maize, soybean, cotton and canola by a remarkable 11% – maintaining its ranking as the second largest producer of biotech crops after the United States. In Brazil, biotech soybeans account for 32.7 million hectares of the 91.4 million hectares grown worldwide.

For 2016, ISAAA also reports that there were improvements in the commercialization and plantings of biotech fruits and vegetables with direct consumer benefits. These included the commercial approvals of the Innate™ Russet Burbank Gen 2 potatoes that were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for sale in the United States and the Simplot Gen 1 White Russet™ brand potatoes that were approved by Health Canada for fresh market sale in Canada. These biotech potato varieties have lower levels of asparagine, which reduces the creation of acrylamide during high-heat cooking. Additionally, the first commercially saleable quantities of Arctic® Apples were harvested in 2016, stored over the winter and are projected to be sold in U.S. grocery stores in 2017.

Additional highlights from ISAAA’s 2016 report include:
  • Global area rebounded in 2016 with 185.1 million hectares of biotech crops versus 179. 7 million hectares 2015, when global area for all crops was down, and 181.5 million hectares in 2014. 
  • In 2016, 26 countries in total, including 19 developing and 7 industrial countries, grew biotech crops. Developing countries grew 54% of biotech crops, compared to 46% for industrial nations. 
  • Eight countries in Asia and the Pacific, including China and India, grew 18.6 million hectare of biotech crops in 2016.
  • 10 countries in Latin America, including Paraguay and Uruguay, grew a combined 80 million hectares of biotech crops in 2016. 
  • In 2016, the leading countries growing biotech crops continued to be represented by the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India. Combined, these five countries planted 91% of the global biotech crop area. 
  • Four countries in Europe -- Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic Slovakia -- grew more than 136,000 hectares of biotech maize in 2016, an increase of 17% from 2015, reflecting EU’s need for insect resistant maize. 
  • Biotech crops with stacked traits accounted for 41% of global area, second only to herbicide tolerance at 47%.
  • Biotech soybean varieties accounted for 50% of global biotech crop area. Based on global area for individual crops, 78% of soybean, 64% of cotton, 26% of maize and 24% of canola planted in the world were biotech varieties.
  • Countries with over 90% adoption of biotech soybean are U.S.A, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, and Uruguay; close to or over 90% adoption of biotech maize are USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, and Uruguay; over 90% of biotech cotton are USA, Argentina, India, China, Pakistan, South Africa, Mexico, Australia, and Myanmar; and with 90% or more of biotech canola are USA and Canada.
For more information and other details about the report, visit the Brief 52 page at the ISAAA website.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trending News on Crop Biotech in 2016

Have you heard about the pink pineapple with high lycopene content developed by Del Monte? How about bananas with longer shelf-life? These are just some of the juicy news on crop biotech in 2016.
We gathered the top 10 most trending Crop Biotech Update news shared on Facebook to give you a glimpse of crop biotech happenings in 2016. Read on and make sure you don't miss which news made it to the number one spot.

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) conducted a Joint Department Circular (JDC) Public Briefing & Symposium on Agricultural Modernization on September 15, 2016 at the Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 2 Experiment Station in Ilagan, Isabela in the Philippines. Read more.

Researchers from the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at  University of Copenhagen have shown, for the first time, that the production of a plant hormone by a beneficial microbe is protecting a plant from a pathogenic microbe by inducing plant resistance. Read more.

Tomato fruit borer (Helicoverpa armigera) is one of the most damaging pests in tomato production, especially in India. Tomatoes do not have genes that confer resistance against the borer and conventional efforts to manage the pest were ineffective. Thus, a team of Indian scientists used Bt technology to develop fruit borer resistant tomatoes. Read more.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) completed the evaluation of genetically engineered pink flesh pineapple and concluded that it is as safe and nutritious as its conventional pineapple varieties. Read more.

Filipino farmer leaders participated in a two-day study visit to Bt brinjal (eggplant) farms in Bangladesh last February 23 to 26, 2016. Discussions on biotechnology regulations in Bangladesh, research and development of Bt brinjal, and farmer experiences on planting Bt brinjal were conducted with officials from the Bangladesh government and scientists from the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI). The activities included field visits to Bt brinjal planting sites, interactions with Bt brinjal farmers as well as Bt brinjal tasting. The activities were held in two villages in Bogra, Bangladesh. Read more.

Cairo University students under the BSc Biotechnology program launched the Scientific Square Radio (SSR). It is the first scientific radio station in Egypt and is located at the Central Library, Faculty of Agriculture, Cairo University. Egypt Biotechnology Information Center (EBIC) highly supported the initiative. Read more.


Scientists from University of Ankara, Turkey and partners developed plant expression constructs with cry1Ac gene under the wound-inducible promoter AoPR1 to concentrate Bt gene expression in insect wounding parts of the plants. Read more. 


The first field trial of genetically modified (GM) potatoes resistant to potato blight conducted in Uganda from October 2015 to January 2016 has been completed at the Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (KaZARDI) of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO). Read more.

U.S President Barack Obama signed the GM food labeling bill into law. The bill was drafted by Senators Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow, which aims to prevent states from issuing mandatory labeling laws and require food manufacturers to use one of three different labels for GM food products: (1) label with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) symbol indicating the presence of GMOs; (2) label using plain language; or (3) add a scanning code that links to ingredient details. Read more.

Scientists from Agricultural Research Organization in Israel have developed transgenic banana plants with longer shelf-life by reducing expression of two transcription factors. The results are published in Plant Physiology. Read more. 

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