Economic study shows higher farm productivity from GM corn in the Philippines

June 30, 2021

About 460,000 Filipino farming families have gained economically from adopting genetically modified (GM) corn as the area planted with this crop has reached around 835,000 hectares in the country since its first regulatory approval in 2002.

   Based on a recent study entitled “Economic Assessment of GM Corn Use in the Philippines”, the total factor productivity growth in the corn industry was estimated to be 11.45% higher due to GM corn adoption.

   In addition, it mentioned that “not only was the gain positive for all household income deciles, it was also inclusive: lower household income deciles benefit from the GM technology more than richer households.”

   The study, authored by Flor Alvarez, Abraham Manalo, and Ramon Clarete, was published in the International Journal of Food Science and Agriculture.

   Its intention was to gauge the economic impact of GM corn over the last 17 years across the country and segmenting into low to high household income.

   “Total welfare gain from adopting GM corn as measured by the equivalent variation of income reached $189.4 million or nearly a tenth of a percent of total household income,” said Alvarez, Manalo and Clarete.

Clean, genetically modified, pest resistant corn. Credit-GLC

   Farmers took advantage of higher income from increased yield from GM corn. From corn’s national average yield of only 3 metric tons per hectare, potential yield from GM corn use can attain double or triple this output.

   Current technologies in the market include Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn, which provides built-in resistance against the Asiatic corn borer, one of the most prevalent and destructive insect pests in the Philippines.

   There have been other insect-resistant traits introduced to farmers after these have been thoroughly evaluated and approved by the government using its existing regulatory guidelines on biosafety.

   In addition to insect resistance, herbicide tolerant traits help farmers to conveniently manage weeds that impact corn yields. This technology protects the corn from damage when using glyphosate-based herbicides and promotes minimum tillage, which helps the environment by preventing soil erosion and degradation.

   “We support the livelihood of Filipino farmers through introduction of modern technologies that can help them improve their yields and profits,” said Edilberto de Luna, Executive Director of CropLife Philippines.

   “Through established government biosafety regulations that assess the safety & benefits of GM corn traits to human and animal health, and to the environment, both farmers and consumers gain from these innovations for our country’s food security and resiliency drive.”

   As of October 2020, the Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department of Agriculture has approved 42 GM events in corn. Thirty of these approvals are for direct use as food, feed, or for processing, while twelve are for commercial planting.

   The top corn-producing regions in the Philippines are Cagayan Valley, Socksargen, Northern Mindanao, ARMM, and Ilocos Region. The country’s total corn production increased from 4.5 million metric tons (MT) in 2000 to 8 million MT in 2019.

   GM corn also enabled the Philippines to export corn silage as the disease-resistant corn plants remain free from holes from pest infestation.

   CropLife Philippines is an association of companies that help improve the productivity of Filipino farmers and contribute to Philippine food security in a sustainable way. It belongs to a global and regional network of national associations and member-companies representing the plant science industry.

   CropLife supports innovation, research and development in agriculture through the use of biology, chemistry, biotechnology, plant breeding, other techniques and disciplines. It promotes the benefits and responsible use of products of the plant science industry such as crop protection and modern agricultural biotechnology—all under a sound regulatory framework. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

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