There is no doubt that biotechnology has helped boost our agricultural sector, affirmed Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora, director of National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH)  at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.  

Dr. Ebora said that products from conventional biotechnology such as bio-fertilizers have helped farmers increased their yields.  Likewise, Bt corn, a product of advanced biotechnology, is widely adopted by our farmers and has helped the country attain self sufficiency in corn, he added.

Biotechnology, as defined by Convention on Biological Diversity is "any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use."
Dr. Ebora made the statement in a press conference for the National Biotechnology Week celebration held Monday at the Commission on Higher Education.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jocelyn E. Eusebio, director of the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research Development (DOST-PCAARRD), revealed that the DOST is investing a lot in biotechnology especially in the field of genomics.
Among DOST’s projects is using genomic techniques to shorten the breeding time of high value crops such as sugarcane, she added.   The project aims to produce varieties with higher yield and disease resistance, among others, by 2016.

Need for more STEAM
In the same press conference, Dr. Napoleon K. Juanillo, Jr., director of Office of Planning Research and Knowledge Management- Commission on Higher Education (CHED) emphasized the need for a critical mass of biotechnology researchers and scientists in the country to propel the country to progress.  

Thus CHED is keen on promoting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agri-Fisheries, and Mathematics) courses according to Dr. Juanillo. "We need to develop a culture of curiosity", he added, revealing that  out of 3.1 M enrolees for this school year, only 549,107 are enrolled in STEAM courses.

The push for STEAM is also evident in CHED’s Research and Development and Extension program which focus on food production and security, disaster preparedness, smart analytics, translational health, and marine biodiversity he added.

Biotechnology scholarship to increase pool of experts
Earlier in the day, Department of Agriculture (DA) officially launched its Biotechnology Scholarship Program during the opening ceremonies of the National Biotechnology Week held at CHED Auditorium.

Thirty three students from Central Luzon State University, University of the Philippines Los Baños, and Visayas State University were awarded scholarships on agricultural biotechnology and related fields.

DA Biotech Program Director Antonio A. Alfonso said that the scholarship program offers a competitive package of privileges—not only in monetary terms but also in opportunity for training under its research mentorship component from the country’s leading scientists in agri-biotechnology partner institutions such as Philippine Rice Research Institute, Philippine Carabao Center, and National Fisheries Research and Development Institution.

The program aims to "contribute in addressing the need for more scientists and researchers in the field of biotechnology,” he related.

The grant coverage includes full tuition per semester, allowance for textbook, monthly living allowance and other incentives.

Dir. Alfonso expressed that DA hopes to offer the scholarship programs to more state universities and colleges in the succeeding years. 

The National Biotechnology Week is an annual event organized by Departments of Science and Technology, Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, Education, Health, Interior and Local Government, and Trade and Industry and Commission on Higher Education as this year’s lead agency. This year’s theme is "Edukasyon sa Bioteknolohiya: Pagyamanin para sa kinabukasan natin".  The event will run until November 28. (S&T Media Service) #biotechnologyPH  #sciencescholarships  #nbw2014

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