Sunday, September 1, 2013

HIV-AIDS cases in Central Luzon on the rise


MALOLOS CITY—Twelve new cases of Human immunodeficiency virus infection / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) were recorded in Central Luzon in the first five months of the year.

As this developed, the Department of Health (DOH) in coordination with Provincial Health Offices (PHOs) in the region are doubling their efforts the curb the incidence and meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Dr. Rhodora Cruz, head of the DOH Center for Health Development in Central Luzon disclosed that 12 new HIV/ADIS cases were reported in Central Luzon from January to May this year.

Citing records from the DOH HIV/AIDS registry, Cruz said that there are 1,075 cases in Central Luzon since 1984.

With regards to Bulacan, she said that there are 343 cases since 1984.

Cruz did not disclose how many of the 12 new cases in the region came from Bulacan.

But she admitted that cases of HIV/AIDS cases in the country is increasing especially from the ranks of call center agents.

As one of the provinces closest to Manila and home to thousands of call center agents, Cruz said that the current number may be lower compared to actual cases as many do not necessarily admit being infected.

“That’s why we need the help of the media to help  curb the infection through awareness,” she said.

For her part, Dr. Jocelyn Gomez, head of the Bulacan Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) said that they are also monitoring infections through shared needles by drug abusers.

She said that based on DOH data, infection through that scheme has risen in the cities in the Visayas and is now also on the rise in Bulacan.

Gomez added that with the on-going threat of spreading HIV-AIDS cases, Bulacan have organized its first HIV/AIDS Council .

She also vowed to keep Bulakenyos informed by issuing regular bulletins on HIV/AIDS in the province along with other communicable diseases.

This includes tubercolosis (TB), malaria, rabies, and Dengue.

Based on DOH data, malaria cases in Bulacan has dropped by 73 percent frpm 89 cases in 2010 to 22 cases last year.

Dengue cases in Bulacan is in decline from 2,281 cases last year to 1,245 this years or 45.41 percent difference.

However, in human rabies casualties, Bulacan lead this region with 14 last year while Tarlac and Nueva Ecija which registered 13 rabies deaths in 2009 and 2010 respective were able to control cases in their turf last year.

In 2012, Tarlac reported five rabies mortality while Nueva Ecija reported only  one.  Dino Balabo

Meet Bulacan's lone water traffic enforcer

HAGONOY, Bulacan—Since the first week of August, Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino Alvarado is performing an unusual task not specifically mention in his job description.

As the province’s governor, Alvarado served as the one and only water traffic enforcer.

The job is similar to traffic enforcers usually seen on the streets, except for the fact that he is not directing flow of vehicular traffic.

Instead, he has been directing water flow on rivers of the province in an attempt to reduce impacts of flooding in different towns of the Bulacan.

“Nagpatapon na naman ang Bustos Dam kahapon,”he said on the sidelines of distribution of relief goods at Barangay San Sebastian here on Saturday, August 24.

He was referring to 500 cubic meters per second water discharged by the Bustos Dam into already swelling Angat River that drains to Manila Bay..

The governor said that he had to caution operators of the dam to prevent further aggravation of flooding here and in the nearby town of Calumpit.

Both towns has been experiencing inflow of back floods from eastern Central Luzon Provinces like Nueva Ecija, and Tarlac that drains through Pampanga and Angat Rivers to Manila Bay.

Alvarado said that he has been monitoring water levels on Pampanga River and dams in Bulacan.

“Para akong traffic enforcer nito, pag hindi ko pipigilan ang pagpapatapon ng Bustos Dam lalong babahain ang Hagonoy at Calumpit,” he said.

Unlike regular traffic enforcer, the governor is not using a usual whistle to call the attention of a motorist.

Instead,he is usuing his cellular phone in calling operators of Bustos, Ipo and Angat Dams in the province.

He is also using the same cellular phone in getting updates from the Pampanga River Flood Forecasting and Warning Center (PRFFWC) which monitors the Pampanga River Basin.

Alvarado explained that both Pampanga  and Angat River contributes to flooding in Calumpit and Hagonoy towns.

However, he said that proper water management will do the trick in reducing impacts of flood in both towns.

The governor said they have also to monitor the day’s sea level rise before allowing Bustos dam in discharging water into the Angat River.

He said that if Bustos Dam operators became reckless in discharging water early last week, Hagonoy town will suffer from deeper flood because high tide level as at least 4.5 feet on Monday and Tuesday (August 19 and 20).

However, impact of flooding was reduced as Alvarado advised operators at the Bustos Dam to delay discharging higher volume of water into the Angat River that also drains to Manila Bay.

“Kailangan lang talaga ay balansehin ang pagpapadaloy ng tubig, pag pinagsabay-sabay, tiyak na malalim na baha ang ibubunga,” he said. Dino Balabo

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rice, rice-based research win in scientific meeting

Studies on submergence tolerant rice and clonal propagation of nipa bested more than a hundred researches during the recent 35th Annual Scientific Meeting of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST). 

The study, titled, Submergence tolerant rice: mitigating the effect of climate change in flash flood prone areas in the Philippines by Loida Perez, Teodora Mananghaya, Verna Dalusong, Henry Ticman, Joselyn Bagarra, and Nenita Desamero was adjudged best scientific poster in the agricultural sciences.

Meanwhile, Tissue culture technique for clonal propagation of nipa palm by Victoria Lapitan, Katrina Leslie Nicolas and Eufemio T. Rasco Jr, executive director of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice),  won best scientific poster in the biological sciences category.

Perez, head of PhilRice`s Genetic Resources Division, and her team found that NSIC Rc160 is a promising submergence tolerant rice cultivar as it showed a 58%-submergence survival rate, which is higher than IR64 Sub1 and IR42.

Perez` team is incorporating the Sub1 gene to the country’s high yielding varieties using marker-assisted breeding methods to help farmers in flash flood-prone areas. Sub1 gene enables rice to survive and recover after flooding.

Meanwhile, Lapitan and her team used the in vitro clonal propagation to produce large quantities of high quality nipa palm. In rice production, nipa has the potential to provide fuel for farm mechanization while rice, through its biomass provides fuel in the production of alcohol from nipa sap.

Results show that through in vitro clonal propagation, 200 seedlings could be produced from a seed of nipa in a year at 80% survival rate. Conventionally, it takes at least 5-6 years to generate 15-36 seedlings at 60-93% germination rate.

Lapitan said that the study is the first attempt to develop in vitro clonal propagation technique for nipa using embryos from mature fruits of nipa.

“The clonal propagation was performed by cutting the plantlets longitudinally along the shoot apical meristem into four sections and cultured in the regeneration medium,” she said.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

S&T-based solutions on showcase at DOST's Expo Science 2013

By:Rodolfo P. De Guzman

Every year, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) celebrates the National Science and Technology Week to showcase the latest innovations, interventions and inventions of Filipino scientists, engineers and various works by the entire scientific community. 

This year, the weeklong event focuses more on the pressing needs of various sectors like agriculture, transportation, industry, services and climate change.

Dubbed as ExpoScience 2013, it carries the theme, “Science, Technology and Innovation: The Road to a Smarter Philippines.” As the theme connotes, DOST gives emphasis on the role of science and technology in making a better future for Filipinos through its projects and services that spur socio-economic development,leading to a “smarter” Philippines.  

TheExpoScience 2013will be held on July 23-27, 2013 at the SMX Convention Center, SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City.

To be showcased during the event are some of the DOST technologies that include the Advanced Materials Testing Laboratory or ADMATEL, a testing facility for the semiconductor industry; the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) system aimed at providing alternative transportation in Metro Manila to ease traffic congestion; the Project NOAH and its components asa vital tool to address climate change; DOST’s Certified Seed Production program for improved agricultural productivity; and the other ICT-driven tools to makethe business process outsourcing(BPO) industry more competitive.

Prior to Expo Science 2013, DOST hasforums and conferences to set the stage in celebrating the main event and fully jumpstart its advocacy to promote science, technology and innovation as viable solutions in improving the lives of Filipinos.

Last July 4 and 5, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) conducted its 39th FNRI Seminar Series with forums, book launching, mini fair, and exhibits. Some of the relevant topics discussed were the 2012 Nutritional Guidelines for Filipinos, brown rice, FNRI-developed complementary foods for babies, the DOST Pinoy model, production of fortified multi-nutrient growth mix and FNRI’s partnerships with private companies like Del Monte Philippines and Robinsons Supermarket to promote proper nutrition to a larger audience.

The 8th Outstanding Young Scientists Inc (OYSI) Annual Meeting and Scientific hel July 9, 2013 at the Manila Hotel had eminent speakers including Dr. Felino P. Lansigan, OYSI president; Dr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar, director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research; Jesus M. Tanchanco Jr., chairman of Food Entrepreneurs and Exporters Organization of the Philippines; Dr. Vicente Y. Belizario Jr., vice chancellor for research and executive director of the National Institute of Health; Dr. Irene M. Villasenor, professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman; Atty. Jose Maria A. Ochave, senior vice president of United Laboratories Inc.; and Dr. Rainier B. Villanueva, founding president of Chamber of Health Industries in the Philippines.

On July 10 and 11, the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) held its 35th Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) at the Manila Hotel with this year’s theme, “Harnessing Science and Technology: Reversing the Decline of the Manufacturing Sector in the Philippines.” Among the guests were Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and Secretary Gregory L. Domingo of the Department of Trade and Industry. Some of the topics discussed include development progeria, processed food and wood products, high value product aquatic biofactories, integrative approach for developing sustainable manufacturing industry, occupational safety and health, and stem cell therapy.

ExpoScience 2013 to feature DOST service and testing labs

By Joy M. Lazcano - S&T Media Service, DOST-STII

In celebration of the National Science and Technology Week dubbed as Expo Science 2013 on July 23-27, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)  puts the spotlight on its technology innovations and support initiatives to various industries in line with its theme "Science, Technology and Innovations: The Road to a Smarter Philippines."

In particular, these are the various technical service facilities and test laboratories offering product testing, analyses, and calibration services to enhance manufacturing companies' product quality, industry growth and global competitiveness.

One of these is the Standards and Testing Division (STD), one of the technical service divisions of the DOST attached agency, the Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI). Aside from its chemical, physical and biological testing and analyses services, STD also performs research and development activities on other testing methods that may fit  clients' needs.

Another facility is the National Metrology Laboratory of the Philippines (NMLP), also under ITDI. The  country's virtual custodian  of all units of measurement standards, NMLP conducts calibration and testing services to private firms on various measurements of  mass, volume, pressure, force, length, density and volume, among others.NMLP is also the first and only laboratory in the Philippines to be accredited under ISO/IEC 17025:2005 by the German accreditation body, Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle (DAkkS), for its technical competence in   facilitating calibrations on electrical, mechanical and thermodynamic quantities.

Also to be featured in Expo Science 2013 is the Advanced Materials and Testing Laboratory(ADMATEL), a first-of-its-kind laboratory in the country which puts the Philippines on the international map of semicon and electronic parts testing by offering cost-effective services and shorter turn-around time for clients' production processes. With its cutting-edge testing and materials analysis facilities. ADMATEL drives the industry up the value chain -- from the manufacturing and assembly phase, to the  testing component, thus upping the ante for a sector viewed as one of the Philippines' major economic drivers.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Peeking thru the Lens: A look at FPRDI’s Wood Identification Service

WOOD IDENTIFICATION is the process of determining the correct identity of a wood material based on its macro and micro anatomical characteristics (Escobin 2012). It is especially useful in the construction, builders’ wood works, furniture, and handicraft sectors that require the correct identity of a wood material for their specific end-uses and applications.

In the Philippines, the Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI) has been providing this service for almost five decades already. This is made possible thru the Institute’s technical expertise and wood library, which hosts 16,348 specimens of Philippine and 5,274 foreign woods.


 The historic Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite houses many wood species that have been previously undocumented. Thru a collaboration with the local government of Kawit, Cavite, Department of Science and Technology Region IV-A, and Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau, FPRDI experts identified on-site the wood species in the Shrine.

A total of 177 pieces of antique furniture and woodcraft from the Shrine’s 10 rooms and three halls were inspected.These were found to be made from 16 wood species such as narra and kamagong. A few were of non-wood species such as tree fern used as ceiling and post ornaments, and rattan as “solehiyas” and whole furniture. Foreign wood species were also identified from presumably imported furniture.

FPRDI’s wood anatomists were also commissioned to identify the species of the wooden antiques and religious images displayed at the San Agustin Church’s PAGREL Museum in Intramuros, Manila. Once identified, the wood items can be better appreciated by enthusiasts and antique collectors visiting the church, according to Forester Arsenio B. Ella.

Built in 1571, the San Agustin Church is the oldest stone church in the Philippines. It was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. A total of 60 statues were identified, with principal species belonging to molave (Vitex parviflora Juss.), kamagong (Diospyros spp.), batikuling (Litsea leytensis Merr.), narra (Pterocarpus indicus Willd.), makaasim (Syzygium spp.), santol [Sandoricum koetjape (Burm. f.) Merr.], maranggo [Azadirachta excelsa (Jack) Jacobs], kamatog [Sympetalandra densiflora (Elmer) v. Steen.], among others.

FPRDI’s wood identification service has also been instrumental in pursuing legal cases against illegal logging operators in the country. FPRDI experts have been tapped by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to verify if the lumber species seized at the Manila North Harbor come from natural/residual forests or plantations.

Executive Order No. 23 strictly bans cutting and harvesting of all trees in natural and residual forests; only trees grown in industrial plantations may be harvested. It mandates the DENR to lead the anti-logging campaign, togetherwith FPRDI, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation- Department of Justice (NBI-DOJ), and Bureau of Customs.

The Institute’s reports serve as evidences in court when DENR files charges against illegal loggers and ship owners that transport the confiscated lumbers.

In addition, the country’s maritime industry benefits from the wood identification service. The MBB Marinewealth Industrial Corp., a Manila-based maker of steamship bearings, had samples of Lignum vitae (known as iron wood) authenticated by FPRDI’s wood anatomists. Lignum vitae, said to be the hardest and heaviest wood in the world, has great strength that makes it fit for tube bearings used in steamship engines. It also produces a special kind of lubricant that renders it a preferred material for underwater use.

Thus, the company can assure its clients that it uses genuine Lignum vitae for a particular set of tube bearings, which is critical in maintaining the company’s credibility (Escobin 2012). ### (Apple Jean C. Martin and Maybell Mariella A. Amador, 03 May 2013)

DOST scholars find niche in RFID tech for sports

Technopreneurs’ race to success

By Luisa S. Lumioan, S&T Media Service, DOST-STII

 When most graduates make seemingly endless rounds in business districts or endure long  lines in job fairs in hopes of landing  their dream jobs, Deogracias “Gary” P. Villame took the road less taken.

Fortunately, it  led him to become Chief Executive Officer of a tech company.

A graduate of Electronics and Communications Engineering from University of the Philippines Diliman, Villame and his former classmates founded Itemhound, a tech start-up company that provides sports timing solutions to running and motor racing events through the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) hardware and applications.

Challenging headstart

Interestingly, the successful start-up company began as just a college thesis  of Villame and  his thesis mates John Paulo Adaoag, Roy Flores, Mark Gil Manalansang and Joe Cris Molina in 2006.

Seeing the study’s potential, their thesis adviser, Dr. Joel Joseph Marciano Jr. encouraged them to join Philippine Emerging Start-ups Open, a business plan competition organized by Ayala Foundation.  They won the competition and saw the prospect of creating their very own company. However, even with the prize money of Php 100,000, they felt that they were not ready yet. “Parang di pa naming kayang pangatawanan (We were not ready to handle it yet),” Villame recalled.

Soon after graduation, Villame, Adaoag, Flores, and Manalansang pursued graduate studies in UP as scholars of Engineering Research and Development for Technology, a program of Department of Science and Technology.  Molina, on the other hand, went abroad to work.

Meanwhile, the start-up plan took a backseat; but they never totally gave up on the idea.

Until the year 2009 when  the four, who were still pursuing their graduate studies,  were asked by UP to do a study for a big company on RFID applications.They  took on the project and this  made them realize that the time was ripe for their start-up company.  Molina, then still working abroad, also welcomed the idea.

Soon, they pooled whatever they  had saved from their stipends and other sources and made their first tough decision.  In January 2010, Itemhound was formally incorporated.

 “Hindi na drowing to, hindi na puro laway lang (This is reality, not just pure rhetoric),” Villame mused, referring to the competition they won a few years back.

Overcoming the hurdles

But like most ventures, starting up can be an uphill race.

Their biggest hurdle was penetrating the market. Villame revealed that even the company that commissioned them to do a study never became their client.  Wooing a big company when they were just starting out did not come easy for them.

They also had to contend with being cash-strapped. “For the first nine months we practically did not have any revenue,” Villame recounted.

In the end, they figured that they needed to identify a market that is easier to penetrate.  That  period saw the growing popularity of fun runs, marathons, and other racing events. Villame and his team saw it as a big opportunity. They also found it easier to relate to the sporting community because of its less formal atmosphere.

In the last quarter of 2010, they had their first big break. Itemhound finally had its first client.

Racing towards success

Since then, the company has been on a dash in handling  the timing of  various running and motor racing events as it continued to develop its own timing products.

One of these is the Strider® system  which can be used in both high volume races such as marathons and small fun runs alike. The company was also the first to introduce paper-based timing tags in 2010 which have made it possible to provide more affordable timing to larger races without sacrificing accuracy.  Strider® has figured in big running events in the country such as NatGeo Earth Day Run 2013, Alaska Iron Kids Philippines, Columbia Eco Trail Run, Merrel Adventure Run among others.

For motor sports, Itemhound has developed Racer®, a race timing system designed for closed-circuit motor racing that uses economical reusable timing tags.Racer® has been the official timing system of the Yamaha MotoGP series for three consecutive years and was the official timing partner of the Yamaha ASEAN Cup 2012.

Lessons learned as local technopreneurs

The first lesson they learned: “You need to be flexible. Your original plan might not work out so you need to be agile, to adapt,” Villame said.

As the CEO, Villame also has to deal with a lot of stress  to make sure  the company is able to stand the pace.  “Many people depend on you, not only in terms of money.  I don’t only look after my own career development but also that of my colleagues. When things get hard I have to help boost their morale.”

In spite of the difficulty of establishing  and keeping a start-up firm  afloat, this self-made technopreneur is not giving up. “There’s something fulfilling in creating your own products, in creating your own business.”

He added, “Kagaya ng laging sinasabi ng DOST, kailangan natin ng entrepreneurs.  Ang laki ng natutulong. Ang laki ng multiplyer effect.  Malaking fulfillment din sa amin na nakakapagbigay kami ng trabaho (As what the Department of Science and Technology or DOST always says, we need entrepreneurs. They are very useful. They create a huge multiplier effect. The fact that we provide employment also makes us fulfilled),”

In retrospect, he never really found it attractive to work abroad or even in the local industryafter hefinished his graduate studies.  “I was very exposed to entrepreneurship because my father is an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship was my first choice for my career path; but, if I did not end up as an entrepreneur, I would probably teach or work in the government,” he said.

For those who are considering   the technopreneurship track, here is his advice:

“Expect that you will do a lot of mistakes; but you don’t have to beat yourself over them.  What is important is that you learn from them fast.  For me, it is not a good sign if you’re not making mistakes anymore; because it means that you’re not trying hard enough.”

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Biotechnology and Climate Change

Climate Change and its Effect in Agriculture

The continuing increase in greenhouse gas emissions raises the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere. This results to melting of glaciers, unpredictable rainfall patterns, and extreme weather events. The accelerating pace of climate change, combined with global population and depletion of agricultural resources threatens food security globally.

The over-all impact of climate change as it affects agriculture was described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), and cited by the US EPA (2011)1 to be as follows:

Increases in average temperature will result to: i)  increased crop productivity in high latitude temperate regions due to the lengthening of the growing season; ii)   reduced crop productivity in low latitude subtropical and tropical regions where summer heat is already limiting productivity; and iii) reduced productivity due to an increase in soil evaporation rates.
Change in amount of rainfall and patterns will affect soil erosion rates and soil moisture, which are important for crop yields. Precipitation will increase in high latitudes, and decrease in most subtropical low latitude regions – some by as much as about 20%, leading to long drought spells.
Rising atmospheric concentrations of CO2 will boost and enhance the growth of some crops but other aspects of climate change (e.g., higher temperatures and precipitation changes) may offset any beneficial boosting effect of higher CO2 levels.
Pollution levels of tropospheric ozone (or bad ozone that can damage living tissue and break down certain materials) may increase due to the rise in CO2 emissions. This may lead to higher temperatures that will offset the increased growth of crops resulting from higher levels of CO2. 
Changes in the frequency and severity of heat waves, drought, floods and hurricanes, remain a key uncertain factor that may potentially affect agriculture.
Climatic changes will affect agricultural systems and may lead to emergence of new pests and diseases.
In 2012, almost 40% of the world population of 6.7 billion, equivalent to 2.5 billion, rely on agriculture for their livelihood and will thus likely be the most severely affected. 2
To mitigate these effects, current agricultural approaches need to be modified and innovative adaption strategies need to be in place to efficiently produce more food in stressed conditions and with net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Contribution of Biotech Crops in Mitigating Effects of Climate Change

Green biotechnology offers a solution to decrease green house gases and therefore mitigates climate change. Biotech crops for the last 16 years of commercialization have been contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions. They allow farmers to use less and environmentally friendly energy and fertilizer, and practice soil carbon sequestration.

Herbicide tolerant biotech crops such as soybean and canola facilitate zero or no-till, which significantly reduces the loss of soil carbon (carbon sequestration) and CO2 emissions, reduce fuel use, and significantly reduce soil erosion.
Insect resistant biotech crops require fewer pesticide sprays which results in savings of tractor/fossil fuel and thus less CO2 emissions. For 2011, there was a reduction of 37 million kg of active ingredients, decreased rate of herbicide and insecticide sprays and ploughing reduced CO2 emission by 23.1  billion kg of CO2 or removing 10.2 million cars off the road.3
Biotech Crops Adapted to Climate Change

Crops can be modified faster through biotechnology than conventional crops, thus hastening implementation of strategies to meet rapid and severe climatic changes. Pest and disease resistant biotech crops have continuously developed as new pests and diseases emerge with changes in climate. Resistant varieties will also reduce pesticide application and hence CO2 emission.  Crops tolerant to various abiotech stresses have been developed in response to climatic changes.

Salinity Tolerant Crops
Biotech salt tolerant crops have been developed and some are in the final field trials before commercialization. In Australia, field trials of 1,161 lines of genetically modified  (GM) wheat and 1,179 lines of GM barley modified to contain one of 35 genes obtained from wheat, barley, maize, thale cress, moss or yeasts are in progress since 2010 and will run till 2015. Some of the genes are expected to enhance tolerance to a range of abiotic stresses including drought, cold, salt and low phosphorous. Sugarcane that contains transcription factor (OsDREB1A) is also under field trial from 2009 to 2015.4

More than a dozen of other genes influencing salt tolerance have been found in various plants. Some of these candidate genes may prove feasible in developing salt tolerance in sugarcane 4, rice5,6, barley 7, wheat 8, tomato9, and soybean10.

Drought Resistant Crops
Transgenic plants carrying genes for water-stress management have been developed.  Structural genes (key enzymes for osmolyte biosynthesis, such as proline, glycine/betaine, mannitol and trehalose, redox proteins and detoxifying enzymes, stress-induced LEA proteins) and regulatory genes, including dehydration–responsive, element-binding (DREB) factors, zinc finger proteins, and NAC transcription factor genes, are being used. Transgenic crops carrying different drought tolerant genes are being developed in rice, wheat, maize, sugarcane, tobacco, Arabidopsis, groundnut, tomato, potato and papaya.11, 12

An important initiative for Africa is the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project of the Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Howard G. Buffet Foundations. Drought tolerant WEMA varieties developed through marker assisted breeding could be available to farmers within the next two or three years. Drought-tolerant and insect-protected varieties developed using both advanced breeding and transgenic approaches could be available to farmers in the later part of the decade.13 In 2012, a genetically modified drought tolerant maize MON 87460 that expresses cold shock protein B has been approved in the US for release in the market.14

Biotech Crops for Cold Tolerance
By using genetic and molecular approaches, a number of relevant genes have been identified and new information continually emerges. Among which are the genes controlling the CBF cold-responsive pathway and together with DREB1 genes, integrate several components of the cold acclimation response to tolerance low temperatures.15

Cold tolerant GM crops are being developed such as GM eucalypti, which is currently being field tested in the US by Arborgen LLC since 2010. Thale cress has been improved to contain the DaIRIP4 from Deschapsia antarctica, a hairgrass that thrives in frosts down to -30C, and sugarcane are being introgressed with genes from cold tolerant wild varieties.4

Biotech Crops for Heat Stress
Expression of heat shock proteins (HSPs) has been associated with recovery of plants under heat stress and sometimes, even during drought. HSPs bind and stabilize proteins that have become denatured during stress conditions, and provide protection to prevent protein aggregation. In GM chrysanthemum containing the DREBIA gene from Arabidopsis thaliana, the transgene and other heat responsive genes such as the HSP70 (heat shock proteins) were highly expressed when exposed to heat treatment. The transgenic plants maintained higher photosynthetic capacity and elevated levels of photosynthesis-related enzymes.16

Forward Looking

Improved crops resilient to extreme environments caused by climate change are expected   in a few years to a decade. Hence, food production during this era should be given another boost to sustain food supply for the doubling population. Biotech research to mitigate global warming should also be initiated to sustain the utilization of new products. Among these are: the induction of nodular structures on the roots of non-leguminous cereal crops to fix nitrogen. This will reduce farmers’ reliance on inorganic fertilizers. Another is the utilization of excess CO2 in the air by staple crop rice by converting its CO2 harnessing capability from C3 to C4 pathway. C4 plants like maize can efficiently assimilate and convert CO2 to carbon products during photosynthesis.


US EPA. 2011. Agriculture and Food Supply: Climate change, health and environmental effects.  April 14, 2011.

IFPRI. 2009. Climate change impact on agriculture and cost adaptation.

Brookes, G and P Barfoot. 2012. Global economic and environmental benefits of GM crops continue to rise.

Tammisola, J. 2010. Towards much more efficient biofuel crops – can sugarcane pave the way? GM Crops 1:4; 181-198.

Salt Tolerant GM Barley Trials in Australia, Successful.

Moghaieb RE, A Nakamura, H Saneoka and K Fujita. 2011. Evaluation of salt tolerance in ectoine-transgenic tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum) in terms of photosynthesis, osmotic adjustment, and carbon partitioning. GM Crops. 2(1):58-65.

Sanghera, GS, S H Wani, W Hussain, and N B Singh. 2011. Engineering cold stress tolerance in crop plants. Curr Genomics 12 (1): 30-43.

Top Ten Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2012

A new overview of biotech crops in 2012

FACT # 1. 2012 was the 17th year of successful commercialization of biotech crops.

Biotech crops were first commercialized in 1996. Hectarage of biotech crops increased every single year between 1996 to 2012 with 12 years of double digit growth rates, reflecting the confidence and trust of millions of risk-averse farmers around the world, in both developing and industrial countries.

FACT # 2. Biotech crop hectares increased by an unprecedented 100–fold from 1.7 million hectares in 1996, to over 170 million hectares in 2012.

This makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent times – the reason – they deliver benefits. In 2012, hectarage of biotech crops grew at an annual growth rate of 6%, up 10.3 million from 160 million hectares in 2011. Millions of farmers in ~30 countries worldwide, have made more than 100 million independent decisions to plant an accumulated hectarage of ~1.5 billion hectares, equivalent to 50% more than the total land mass of the US or China; this reflects the fact that biotech crops deliver sustainable and substantial, socioeconomic and environmental benefits.

FACT # 3. For the first time in 2012, developing countries planted more hectares than industrial countries.

Notably, developing countries grew more, 52%, of global biotech crops in 2012 than industrial countries at 48%. In 2012, growth rate for biotech crops was at least three times as fast, and five times as large in developing countries, at 11% or 8.7 million hectares, versus 3% or 1.6 million hectares in industrial countries.

FACT # 4. Number of countries growing biotech crops.

Of the 28 countries which planted biotech crops in 2012, 20 were developing and 8 were industrial countries; two new countries, Sudan (Bt cotton) and Cuba (Bt maize) planted biotech crops for the first time in 2012. Germany and Sweden could not plant the biotech potato "Amflora" because it ceased to be marketed. Stacked traits are an important feature – 13 countries planted biotech crops with two or more traits in 2012, and notably, 10 of the 13 were developing countries – 43.7 million hectares, or more than a quarter, of the 170 million hectares were stacked in 2012.

FACT # 5. Number of farmers growing biotech crops.

In 2012, a record 17.3 million farmers, up 0.6 million from 2011, grew biotech crops – remarkably over 90%, or over 15 million, were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries. Farmers are the masters of risk-aversion and in 2012, a record 7.2 million small farmers in China and another 7.2 million in India, elected to plant almost 15 million hectares of Bt cotton, because of the significant benefits it offers. In 2012 over one-third of a million small farmers in the Philippines benefited from
biotech maize.

FACT # 6. The top 5 countries planting biotech crops.

The US continued to be the lead country with 69.5 million hectares, with an average ~ 90% adoption across all crops. Brazil was ranked second, and for the fourth consecutive year, was the engine of growth globally, increasing its hectarage of biotech crops more than any other country – an impressive record increase of 6.3 million hectares, up 21% from 2011, reaching 36.6 million hectares. Argentina retained its third place with 23.9 million hectares. Canada was fourth at 11.8 million hectares with 8.4 million hectares of canola at a record 97.5% adoption. India was fifth, growing a record 10.8 million hectares of Bt cotton with an adoption rate of 93%, In 2012, each of the top 10 countries planted more than 1 million hectares providing a broad foundation for future growth

FACT # 7. Status of biotech crops in Africa.

The continent continued to make progress with South Africa increasing its biotech area by a record 0.6 million hectares to reach 2.9 million hectares; Sudan joined South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt, to bring the total number of African biotech countries commercializing biotech crops to four. Five countries, Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda conducted field trials of biotech crops, the penultimate step prior to approval for commercialization. The lack of appropriate, science-based and cost/time-effective regulatory systems continue to be the major constraint to adoption. Responsible, rigorous but not onerous, regulation is needed, particularly for small and poor developing countries.

FACT # 8. Status of biotech crops in the EU.

Five EU countries planted a record 129,071 hectares of biotech Bt maize, up 13% from 2011. Spain led the EU with 116,307 hectares of Bt maize, up 20% from 2011 with a record 30% adoption rate in 2012.

FACT # 9. Benefits offered by biotech crops.

From 1996 to 2011, biotech crops contributed to Food Security, Sustainability and the Environment/Climate Change by: increasing crop production valued at US$98.2 billion; providing a better environment, by saving 473 million kg a.i. of pesticides; in 2011 alone reducing CO2 emissions by 23.1 billion kg, equivalent to taking 10.2 million cars off the road for one year; conserving biodiversity by saving 108.7 million hectares of land; and helped alleviate poverty for >15.0 million small farmers and their families totaling >50 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world. Biotech crops are essential but are not a panacea and adherence to good farming practices such as rotations and resistance management, are a must for biotech crops as they are for conventional crops.

FACT # 10. Future Prospects.

Cautiously optimistic with more modest annual gains likely due to the already high rates of adoption in the principal biotech crops in mature markets in both developing and industrial countries.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stealing weather tools is a 15-year jail term, DOST-PAGASA warns

By Rodolfo P. de Guzman, S&T Media Service, DOST-STII               

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) -  Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warns of stiff penalties for those thinking of stealing, taking, and tampering government equipment  for weather monitoring, risk reduction,  and disaster preparedness. 

The penalties  range from two to 15 years imprisonment and/or fines   from P200,000 to P 3 million. Further, under R.A. 10344 or An Act Penalizing the Unauthorized Taking, Stealing, Keeping or Tampering of Government Risk Reduction and Preparedness Equipment, Accessories and Similar Facilities, the mere possession of said equipment is already prima facie evidence for prosecution and imposition of penalties.

Congressman Angelo Palmones of AGHAM Party List, principal author of the law, stressed that the penalties are  bigger because the consequences of stealing the equipment are far greater than ordinary theft. “An example of this is what happened in Agno River where the cables connecting the sensors were stolen and so no warning was given to the people, resulting in damages,” said Palmones.

On the other hand, Dr. Renato U. Solidum, Phivolcs  director said, “The role of the community and the people is very important and the local government units must be vigilant in helping safeguard the equipment in their areas. “

During the open forum, veteran broadcaster Mario Garcia, formerly of PTV 4, suggested that PAGASA inscribe tamper-proof and visibly identifiable labels on the equipment bearing the words “Government Property” for easy identification. By doing so, Garcia said it would be easier for the government to punish violators.

“When I was a director in SBMA in Subic, we formed the Social Fencing Group that created a network of informants in the communities who provided them information as to possible perpetrators because they are the ones who knew the residents, ” Garcia shared.

Other speakers during the public hearing were Lita Suerte Felipe, legislative liaison specialist of DOST; Dr. Vicente Malano of PAGASA; and Usec. Corazon Jimenez and Col. Gerry Ilagan of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.