A flag of many colors, that is how Department of Science and Technology Secretary Estrella Alabastro describes biotechnology during the opening of the National Biotechnology Week (NBW) Nov 24 at the Institute for Small Scale Industries in UP Diliman.

“If we could weave a flag for biotechnology, it would have three colors,” says Sec. Alabastro. “Red for medical, green for agricultural, and white for industrial applications.”  More colors may be added over time as the environmental, marine, and other biotechnology applications add their stripes, she tells.

Sec. Alabastro’s multi-color description of biotechnology stems from its being a multi-disciplinary science, cutting across various fields such as health and medicine, agriculture, marine, industry, and environment.

This year’s celebration of the NBW highlights 17 biotechnology products locally developed by scientists  from various research organizations such as UP Los Baños, UP Diliman, Philippine Coconut Authority, Central Luzon State University, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Philippine Carabao Center, and the Department of Science and Technology.

Sec.Alabastro underscores the importance of NBW as a venue to continuously learn from experiences of researchers and open channels of communication about new issues and their implications. “Biotechnology’s future will be bright as it continues to draw strength from diverse contributions. Its flag of many colors will continue to reflect the hues and patterns of many disciplines,” Sec. Alabastro says.

Other biotech products already developed by local scientists include biofertilizers, ethanol-production-inducing bacteria, and micronutrient enhancement products. As early as 1998, high-level biotechnology researches started, such as transgenic papaya, banana resistant to banana bunchy top virus, papaya resistant to papaya ringspot virus, delayed ripening of papaya and mango, Bt corn, marker-assisted breeding in coconut, and coconut with high lauric acid content.

Proclamation No. 1414 signed by Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Nov. 9 last year declared the last week of November of every year as “National Biotechnology Week” in a bid to arouse greater public awareness, education and understanding of biotechnology, including its many responsible applications. The government also takes the NBW celebration as an opportunity to increase awareness on the regulation of the new technology. (Framelia V. Anonas, S&T Media Service)