After two years of having a virtual program, the 16th Pan-Asia Farmers Exchange Program was held face-to-face last October 10-14, 2022 in the Philippines.

A total of 51 participants from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam attended this year’s program. 

On Oct 10, the participants were greeted by representatives from CropLife Asia, CropLife Philippines and the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines as they arrive and register for the Opening Program. The participants were officially welcomed by Mr. Jan Alfred Samson, President of the CropLife Philippines.

Participants register as they arrive in the venue.
Mr. Jan Alfred Samson, President of CropLife Philippines, gives the welcome remarks.

On the 2nd day, Oct 11, a seminar on biotechnology was held in the morning. Dr. Saturnina Halos, President of the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines and Chair of the  Department of Agriculture Technical Advisory Group on Modern Biotechnology and Other Innovations talked about Biotechnology and Biosafety via video call online; Asst Scientist Ma Lorelie Agbagala, Head Secretariat of the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines, Dept of Science and Technology (NCBP-DOST) discussed the Philippine Biosafety Regulations on Plants Derived from Modern Biotechnology, and Dr. Lilia Portales from the DA Post-Approval Monitoring Group (PAMG) presented the Insect Resistance Management for Biotech Corn.

Dr. Portales discussing the insect resistance management for biotech corn.
Ms Agbagala from NCBP-DOST presenting the Philippine Biosafety Regulations.

For the field of communications, Ms. Jenny Panopio, Regulatory and Stewardship Manager of Corteva and Chair of the CL Philippines Seeds Team and Mr. Jerome Barradas, Project Coordinator of the Research and Thought Leadership Department at Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), shared their experiences and tips in communicating biotech in the Philippines.

Ms. Panopio and Mr. Barradas share the Philippine Experience in Communicating Science and Biotechnology

On the other hand, Mr. David Cristobal, Chair of the Stewardship and Responsible Care Committee at CropLife Philippines, shared the Sustainable Corn Production in Sloping Areas (SCOPSA) Program of CropLife Philippines and the Importance of the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

Mr. Cristobal presents the SCOPSA Program and importance of using PPEs.


On the 3rd day of the program, Dr. Roel Suralta, Director of the DA-Crop Biotechnology Center, together with the Golden Rice team, gave warm greetings as they welcome the participants to a tour at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).  

Dr. Suralta welcomes the participants to the tour to PhilRice facilities and Golden Rice farm.
Dr. Ronan G. Zagado, Lead of the Golden Rice Program, presents the journey and benefits of Golden Rice.
Dr. Oliver Manangkil, head of the Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Division at PhilRice, gives an overview of the projects they develop in PhilRice.

The participants visited the Gene Bank, the Genetic Resources, Rice Chemistry and Food Science Laboratories and the Rice Museum. The highlight of the tour is the visit to the Future Rice Farm, where the Golden Rice, a new type of rice that contains beta carotene (provitamin A, a plant pigment that the body converts into vitamin A as needed), is planted.

Participants, divided into groups, visit the different laboraty facilities at PhilRice.
Dr. Arlen de la Cruz, Senior Science Research Specialist, explains what they do in their laboratory.
Dr. Marissa Romero, Chief Senior Research Specialist & Lead for Demand Component, presents the Golden Rice itself and gave the participants a chance to see and feel the cooked golden rice
Dr. Reynante Ordonio, Scientist, gives a tour to the different laboratories and shares the different procedures they do and the use of the main equipment in the laboraties.
The participants were able to see the actual golden rice in the fields by visiting “The Future Rice Farm” at PhilRice.

On the 4th day of the program, in the morning, the group visited the Syngenta GM corn demo farm where the participants were able to see actual GM corn planted and were able to interact with GM corn farmers and company technicians. The GM corn farmers shared the challenges they faced before and how their lives changed since they planted GM corn.

In the afternoon, the participants visited the Corteva Seed Processing Plant. Here, it was shown how the seeds are produced to ensure that high quality gm corn seeds are released and distributed to corn farmers.

During the closing program, Dr. Reynante Ordonio, Scientist at PhilRice, gave a presentation on Plant Breeding Innovations (PBI), which covered the applications, global trends and the Philippine Policy in PBI. The program concluded with the distribution of certificates.

Positive feedbacks were received and participants were very much appreciative of the knowledge they gained about biotechnology and how it can help in achieving food security, enhance food nutrition, contribute to conservation of environment, and help alleviate poverty in farmers, especially in developing countries. 

Representatives from the Organizers – Winsper Jriej, Thelma Soriano, Sonny Tababa, CropLife Asia; Dr. Reynante Ordonio, Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP); Jenny Panopio, CropLife Philippines and Rhoda Yumang, BCP