Tag Archives: GMOs


A joint project of CropLife Asia & the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA)

A man out of his mind! Leaving a stable job overseas to start farming back home might be seen as a move only an unstable person would do. Not for Emerson Agno, though, it was just the beginning of something worth the cliff jump.

Now at the helm of a successful business and an active farmer’s organization, Emerson and his business partner, Lualhati Alfonso Kimura, share how Bt corn opened opportunities for them to support his fellow farmers and made it their mission to transform them into ‘agripreneurs.’

“There’s no money in farming,” Emerson recalls the comments of his Filipino coworkers when he decided to resign from his job at a multi-national construction company in Qatar and come home to help supervise his family’s agricultural commodities business in 2018.
Four years later, he has proven them wrong.

Sparked by the desire to help fellow corn farmers in the province of Quezon, Emerson later founded the Gintong Butil (Golden Grain) Agricultural Commodities and Services Company together with Lualhati when he returned from working overseas. To further assist the farmers in their area, they formed a farmer’s organization in their barangay, the Samahan ng Masisipag na Magmamais ng Mangilag Norte, in which Emerson and Lualhati are the current president and vice president, respectively. Emerson is also the current president of the Quezon Corn Growers Federation.

From four hectares, Emerson and Lualhati now manage around 20 hectares of personal farmland dedicated to Bt corn. They are also involved in managing more than 200 hectares of land by financing farmer-partners within Quezon and neighboring provinces through Gintong Butil.


“When I was able to save enough money from working in Qatar, my father retired, and we decided to go back to farming and plant corn. We chose to plant Bt corn because there was a market for it,” says Emerson. Based on their estimates, Region 4-A, comprised of five provinces namely Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon (CALABARZON), can only produce five to eight percent of its total corn requirement. Most of the corn supply comes from the northern parts of the country. This presented an opportunity for them to fill up the market gap in the region.

Planting conventional varieties demands more labor and inputs compared to Bt corn, according to Emerson and Lualhati. Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt corn is a genetically modified (GM) corn variety that is resistant to the Asiatic corn borer. “The conventional corn is prone to pests and diseases, so it constantly needs pesticides, which adds to the production cost. With Bt corn, we mostly spray herbicides, and we only use Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA)-approved insecticides when needed for insects such as the fall armyworm. Using chemicals are necessary at times but we need to use it properly,” Lualhati further clarifies.

“Though it costs more compared to non-GMO seeds, the benefits and returns of a higher yield can cover those costs and more.”


They also saw the Bt corn produced better yield than the conventional variety, averaging around six to eight tons per hectare on their best crop season (the average yield for the conventional variety is 2-3 tons per hectare). “Since we are going to pour effort and resources into it, we might as well use high-yielding GM corn seeds. Though it costs more compared to non-GM seeds, the benefits and returns of a higher yield can cover those costs and more,” he notes. “We also promote Bt corn to the farmer-partners of Gintong Butil,” Lualhati adds.


At its core, Gintong Butil’s goal is to increase the income of corn growers in Quezon and nearby provinces and to help them address farming concerns from land preparation, harvesting, pricing, to selling their crops. “We assist them through financing and post- harvest equipment rental. Our farmer-partners often have no capital, so they loan from us with low interest rates. They usually pay us back after harvest. Members of the Samahan (farmer’s organization) can also rent farm equipment from Gintong Butil at a lower price,” Emerson explains. Additionally, the Samahan receives assistance (i.e., seeds, fertilizers, and equipment) from the Department of Agriculture (DA). The Samahan currently has 25 members within the barangay, but Gintong Butil supports around 50-70 farmer-partners throughout Quezon. They plan to expand the services of the company to the farthest towns in the province.

Aside from financial assistance, another concern that they are particularly keen to resolve through Gintong Butil is the presence of middlemen. “They normally buy the corn at a significantly lower price that they earn more than the farmers. We inform the farmers that they can process their own harvest, so they can keep their full income,” Lualhati continues.

Emerson and Lualhati happily share that their partner corn farmers now avail of Gintong Butil’s services instead of dealing with middlemen. After drying, they look for purchase orders from their partner feed mills and poultry farms so farmers can directly sell their harvests. “Our partner-farmers can now have a better life because they earn more,” she adds.

Gintong Butil also leads capacity-building activities for its farmer- partners. They coordinate with technicians from their suppliers as well as feed and fertilizer companies to train the farmers. They also encourage them to join trainings organized by the DA.


From working abroad, managing Gintong Butil has become Emerson’s primary source of income. They only had a small truck, one tractor and a corn sheller when they started. They now have two tractors, dryers, and trucks. They were also able to build a warehouse with their earnings. Gintong Butil regularly supplies feed mills in Quezon, Laguna, and Batangas. Along with the yield of their farmer-partners, they also supply around 20-25 tons of Bt corn monthly to one of the major food manufacturers in the Philippines.

“As for business expansion, we are exploring if we can meet the demand of other companies. One challenge is having farmer-partners who know how to market new products,” Emerson admits. However, he observed that a lot of farmers still practice traditional farming methods that don’t increase their yield and harvest.

This, he says, is why farmers should be encouraged to be ‘agripreneurs.’ “They think that just because they are farmers, they can’t be entrepreneurs. We need to change their mindset that they, too, can earn more if they know the business side of farming,” he points out. Lualhati shares this sentiment and adds that the youth should have a similar outlook to motivate them to venture into agriculture. “We have to advocate that farming can be a main source of income.”

From conversations with their partners, Emerson and Lualhati believe that farmers need to be updated with modern technologies and farming practices. Machineries and post-harvest facilities in the area should also be available. One of the goals of the federation is to establish a post-harvest facility in the province with the assistance of DA and in partnership with Gintong Butil. They also encourage small-scale farmers to form organizations and consolidate their efforts since it is easier to negotiate or demand prices as a group.

“We feel that we have a social responsibility to lend a hand to our fellow farmers. As our income increase and our quality of life improves, so should theirs. At the end of the day, we are all in this together,” Emerson states.


A joint project of CropLife Asia & the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA)


Known in the Philippine agri-biotech community as the “Queen of Bt Corn,” Rosalie Ellasus shares her journey from working overseas to being a successful genetically modified (GM) corn farmer, and using her influence as a biotech advocate to inspire other farmers to plant GM crops.

Seated against a background of her lush corn fields, near a brand-new farm tractor, Rosalie fondly recalls how she initially had no background or interest in farming. Things changed when her husband died in 1995 and she decided to come home from working overseas to be with her three children. She invested her savings in a small farm, but the results were far from rosy. Her corn farm was riddled with pests and weeds; mere farm income was not enough to send her children to college. Selling the farm was not a lucrative option either.

In 2002, Rosalie attended a 16-week Integrated Pest Management-Farmer Field School (IPMFFS) for corn in her municipality. She notes that this was a defining moment since she learned about Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn, a GM corn variety that is resistant to the Asiatic corn borer. “We had a field trial and I volunteered to have a demo trial of Bt and non-Bt corn on my farm. We saw that Bt corn produced better yield than the conventional variety,” she adds. When the Philippine government approved the commercialization of Bt corn in 2003, Rosalie became one of the pioneer adaptors of the GM crop in the country. From just over one hectare of land in 2011, she now harvests corn from more than 10 hectares of farmland. Apart from Rosalie, other farmers in San Jacinto, Pangasinan have also found success in planting Bt corn.

“We saw that Bt corn produced better yield than the conventional variety.” – Rosalie Ellasus, Bt corn farmer, Philippines

Rosalie has enjoyed a multifaceted career over the years. On top of being a farmer, she also became a municipal councilor for nine years. She’s currently the Municipal Risk Reduction and Management Officer of her town. “I did not give up farming because I still wanted to provide livelihood to the farm workers that tend to my field,” she says.

She has also become one of the champions of biotech crops in the country. “Because of the positive outcome of the demo trial, I got invited to different gatherings in other towns to share my experience with the crop. That’s where my advocacy started. I want other farmers, big or small, to know that they, too, can have a better life with Bt corn,” Rosalie states. She admits that it’s rare for a farmer like her to be given the opportunity to travel, so it was a pleasure sharing her biotech experience with farmers in other countries such as Mexico, Peru, and Bangladesh.

In 2016, the Department of Agriculture- Biotechnology Program Office named her as one of the “Filipino Faces of Biotechnology” for her contributions to the country’s agribiotech sector. 


It has been 15 years since Zosimo Gonzales started planting Bt corn and he has no plans of turning back. Now 70 years old, he first knew of Bt corn when Rosalie introduced it in their area during the demo trial. “When we tried planting it ourselves, we were convinced that Bt corn was better since it was high yielding. The corn borers were also gone so we did not have to spend much on insecticides, unlike the conventional varieties where we had to apply large amounts of insecticides but still had less yield compared to Bt corn,” he explains.

With this additional income from Bt corn and a small rice field, he was able to build a house and buy farm equipment such as a tractor and water pump. Both his children were also able to finish their studies. “Recently, we harvested 15 tons of corn on my 1.7-hectare farm,” he adds.

“When we tried planting it ourselves, we were convinced that Bt corn was better since it was high yielding. The corn borers were also gone so we did not have to spend much on insecticides, unlike the conventional varieties where we had to apply large amounts of insecticides but still had less yield compared to Bt corn,” – Zosimo Gonzales, Bt corn farmer, Philippines

Husband and wife Trinidad and Saturnino Velasco, Sr., are also long-time Bt corn farmers from the area. Similar to Zosimo, the couple shifted to Bt corn after seeing its benefits. “We noticed an improvement in our farming methods. We used to spend a lot on insecticides, but now, we only spray it when needed.” Trinidad further clarifies, “there is no corn borer infestation anymore but sometimes, we still need to apply insecticides to eliminate other insects such as armyworms, fruit flies, and leafhoppers.”

“There are times that we are able to harvest 9.6 tons of corn per hectare. We will never get tired of planting Bt corn,” – Mr. & Mrs. Trinidad Velasco

“There are times that we are able to harvest 9.6 tons of corn per hectare. We will never get tired of planting Bt corn,” she happily shares. Saturnino continues, “we were able to send our five children to school and now, they all have good careers. We bought land and farm equipment. We were also able to buy a car with our income.”

Now in their sixties, the couple is still actively involved in managing their farm and they’ve hired other farmers to tend to their corn field. “We are glad to see fellow farmers such as Rosalie succeed because we are also encouraged to produce better crops. It’s like a friendly competition,” says Trinidad.

Another farmer in the area, Romeo Velasco, echoes similar sentiments. “Aside from higher income and improved farming practices, I can confidently say that Bt corn is safe for humans. I’ve been planting it for almost 10 years, and I haven’t experienced any negative side effects. It’s also safer than the conventional varieties since we use fewer insecticides,” he shares. With 25 hectares of land dedicated to Bt corn, Romeo shares that he has been able to help a lot of his fellow farmers in the area. “They have regular jobs because of farming, and they use this to pay for their children’s schooling and to support the other needs of their families.” His farm income also goes into the expansion of his agriculture supplies business.

“Aside from higher income and improved farming practices, I can confidently say that Bt corn is safe for humans. I’ve been planting it for almost 10 years, and I haven’t experienced any negative side effects. It’s also safer than the conventional varieties since we use fewer insecticides,” – Romeo Velasco, Bt corn farmer, Philippines

“Corn farming used to be labor-intensive,” Rosalie recalls. Before, there were many activities involved during the planting season (i.e., plowing, fertilization, weeding, de-tasseling, watering, insecticide spraying, etc.) which were also costly. With Bt corn, this tedious process has been simplified. “The farmer just needs to focus on fertilization, watering, and manpower. We spray Glyphosate to get rid of the weeds, but the overall production cost has been reduced. Now, we can easily sell our corn to feed millers and traders since it’s not infested by corn borers,” she elaborates. Rosalie also attests to the safety of Bt corn. “We have been feeding Bt corn to our livestock for years and there have been no adverse effects.”

“More importantly, my children were able to finish university, which was my main concern when I became a single parent. I am now helping with the education of my grandchildren. I was also able to establish other businesses and buy farm equipment. Our life has certainly improved because of Bt corn,” she beams.


Zosimo recalls that he was not frightened to try the technology when it was first introduced. “I have no regrets with planting Bt corn. Why would I be afraid of it? Farmers need to open their minds to modern technologies. These won’t be introduced to us if it will just cause more damage to our crops.” He also hopes that their experience will help convince farmers to plant Bt corn.

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Saturnino feel fortunate that they discovered Bt corn and enjoy its benefits. “If given the chance, we will still choose to plant Bt corn. It’s more profitable than the conventional ones,” they add.

Romeo shared his aspirations and hopes that the GM corn variety in the country will be further improved so that more farmers will be encouraged to plant it. “I also plan to expand my farm so I can employ more corn farmers in my area. That way, I can help them provide for their families,” he says.

Similarly, Rosalie expressed the need to advance technologies and biotech products in the country. She mentioned that farmers also need climate-resilient crops to cope with agricultural challenges. She expounds, “we need to invest in smart agriculture and biotechnology, otherwise, the Philippines will be left behind. Agriculture and technology should go hand in hand.”

For such an accomplished farming career, Rosalie plans to carry on with her biotech advocacy. “I still want to inspire other farmers especially the younger ones, to venture into agriculture, particularly GM crops. I can also explore other opportunities so that I can continue being of service to the people of San Jacinto and perhaps even beyond!”


By: CropLife International

As the global federation representing the plant science industry, our purpose at CropLife International is to advance innovation in agriculture for a sustainable future and to play a leading role in enabling sustainable food systems.

We are guided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and our global ambitions for zero hunger, carbon neutrality, and nature positive agriculture and continue to be an industry that is grounded in science. We are committed to keeping abreast of, and contributing to, the latest science- and evidence-based information that supports our global ambitions. Below are 10 reports and studies published in 2021 that offer valuable insights and updates on our industry’s progress against these ambitions.



The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in Improving Global Food Security

Global Food Security

Decades after the Green Revolution helped improve food security across the world, climate change, a lack of access to technology, and trade issues are causing food insecurity to rise again. In response, NGOs, academia, governments, foundations, and the private sector are urging renewed collaboration and partnerships to recover and return to accelerate food production and improve food distribution. An October article in the journal Global Food Security, The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in Improving Global Food Security, discusses the rationale for public-private partnerships and explores the range of these collaborations and their impacts on global food systems. The authors recommend the use of both strategic and tactical partnerships should be accelerated to improve global food security.

Click here for the report


State of Food and Agriculture 2021: Tracking Progress on Food and Agriculture-Related SDG Indicators 2021

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

According to a November FAO report, COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerability of food systems and led to increased global food insecurity and malnutrition. The report, State of Food and Agriculture 2021, examines the challenges of building more resilient food systems and provides recommendations on ways to transform food systems to be more responsive to shocks and stresses. FAO also released its 2021 Statistical Yearbook in November, outlining the economic dimensions of agriculture, the production, trade and prices of commodities, food security and nutrition, and sustainability and environmental aspects of agriculture.

A related FAO report, Tracking Progress on Food and Agriculture-Related SDG Indicators, assesses the progress being made on eight of the key food and agriculture-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ranging from Zero Hunger to Responsible Consumption and Production. The report also includes a section on how the private sector can better monitor and report progress toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Click here for the report


Cancer incidence in agricultural workers: Findings from an international consortium of agricultural cohort studies (AGRICOH)

Environment International

Cancer Incidence in Agricultural Workers: Findings from an International Consortium of Agricultural Cohort Studies (AGRICOH), published on 27 August in Environment International, evaluated cancer incidence in male and female agricultural workers relative to their respective general populations. The researchers analyzed cancer incidence in almost 250,000 agricultural workers across six countries and determined that the overall cancer rate occurred less in agricultural workers than in the general population.

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Letter to the editor regarding the article “The global distribution of acute unintentional pesticide poisoning: estimations based on a systematic review”

BMC Public Health

CropLife International, with feedback from its Regulatory and Stewardship Steering Committees, responded to an article on claims of pesticide poisoning originally published in BMC Public Health on 7 December 2020. In our letter to the editor, published 27 October, we agreed on the need to understand the extent of possible pesticide poisonings, but questioned the methodology and findings from the original article. The letter concluded by noting that a constructive and informed discussion on the role of crop protection and the use of pesticides in sustainable food production is important and pesticide safety should be addressed in partnership with governments, farmers, NGOs, and other stakeholders.

Click here to read the letter



Correlating Genetically Modified Crops, Glyphosate Use and Increased Carbon Sequestration


As the world gathered in Glasgow for COP26 in November to discuss climate change and commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a  newly published study in the journal Sustainability highlighted the role that plant science innovations such as biotech crops and crop protection can play in promoting climate-smart agriculture. The original research study, Correlating Genetically Modified Crops, Glyphosate Use and Increased Carbon Sequestration, concludes that herbicide-tolerant genetically modified (GM) crops and glyphosate can increase soil carbon sequestration, thereby keeping carbon dioxide in the ground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming.

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Adaption Gap Report 2021: The Gathering Storm

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

While the world looks to mitigate climate change by stepping up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the existing impacts of climate change is just as relevant. The sixth edition of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Adaptation Gap Report: The Gathering Storm looks at how the world is progressing in adapting to these intensifying impacts. The report finds there is an urgent need to step up climate adaptation finance, with the estimated adaptation costs in developing countries five to ten times greater than current public adaptation finance flows and the finance gap widening, in part due to COVID-19 impacts.

Click here to read the report



Impact Assessment Study on EU 2030

Wageningen University & Research

An October study from Wageningen University & Research predicts that the effects of the European Commission Green Deal, including the proposed Farm2Fork (F2F) strategy, will result in a loss in productivity through lower agricultural yields, leading to price hikes and an increase in agricultural imports to Europe. The study, commissioned by CropLife Europe and CropLife International, looked at potential impacts from four different scenarios and case studies involving reduction targets of various inputs and available resources. The executive summary is available now, with a full report expected in 2022.

Click here to read the executive summary


The Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP) 2020 Annual Report

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The 2020 Annual Report – Plant Production and Protection, spearheaded by Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director-General of FAO provides in-depth information and key facts and figures from the newly re-named FAO Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP). This is the first Divisional Annual Report of its kind and is expected to be published annually. NSP works with countries and a broad range of partners in developing and promoting approaches to sustainable crop production that build on existing ecosystems while enhancing and protecting biodiversity and natural resources.

Click here to read the report


A Special Issue on of the Journal of Regulatory Science on Genetically Modified Organisms

Journal of Regulatory Science

Regulatory modernization could create a more predictable, effective, safe, transparent, and timely path to market for agriculture innovations. These innovations are critical to contributing to the achievement of sustainable food systems as they provide solutions for farmers to address a changing climate while meeting growing food demand within the limitations of our planet. A special issue of the open-access Journal of Regulatory Science on Genetically Modified Organisms, published in January in conjunction with CropLife International, provides peer-reviewed recommendations to modernize the regulation of genetically modified crops.

Click here to read the report


UN Food Systems Summit Synthesis Reports

UN Food Systems Summit

The United Nations Food Systems Summit, held virtually in September, held a series of Food Systems Summit Dialogues in the year-long lead-up to the event. The Dialogues were meant to provide a powerful opportunity to engage meaningfully, explore collectively, and emerge resiliently for sustainable food systems. To date, more than 1,600 Food Systems Summit Dialogues have been announced with more than 100,000 participants, 148 National Convenors, and 109 National Pathways. Synthesis reports, with conclusions, recommendations, and implications for transforming food systems, have been published that include a majority of the IndependentMember State, and Global Summit Dialogues. CropLife International held an Independent Dialogue in May, Unleashing Innovation to Transform Local Food Systems, and published a feedback report and a takeaways blog.

In conjunction with the UN Food Systems Summit, a Scientific Group was formed to deliver the latest evidence-based and scientific approaches to food systems transformation. The resulting report, Science and Innovations for Food Systems Transformations and Summit Actions, provides summarized recommendations on action for hunger and healthy diets; equity and assistance; sustainable resource management; food production systems; and finance, investment, and trade.