Agriculture Secretary William Dar led the inauguration ceremony of the Crop Biotechnology Center (CBC) on September 30, 2021 in the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

“The amount of investment we have poured into this state-of-the-art facility is our first line of defense against hunger. The challenge on our part is to ensure that innovations are accessible and affordable to all stakeholders within our food systems. Biotechnology is therefore a response in the call for sustainable agricultural modernization,” Secretary Dar said in his inaugural message.

Aside from the Secretary, also present in the inauguration were US Embassy in Manila Agricultural Attache Ryan Bedford, PhilRice Executive Director Dr. John De Leon and Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) OIC Executive Director and Asec. for Regulations, Dr. Liza Battad. 

The CBC was approved for funding in 2017 with project cost amounting to PhP302,253,000. It served as a catalyst in the development and utilization of modern biotechnologies for agriculture. Out of this, PhP277,253,000 was funded under the US PL-480 Title I Program.

PCAF served as the fund manager of the PL-480 Program, together with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency has been regularly monitoring various projects including the Crop Biotechnology Center.

The Agriculture Chief also emphasized that this OneDA Family Biotechnology Center will be the ground zero for increasing the country’s productivity in various crops to feed the growing population of the country which is now being tested by the current Covid-19 pandemic.

The project is part of the harmonization with DA Administrative Order No. 6 Series of 2015, mandating for the strengthening of the agricultural biotechnology center at PhilRice, and to meet the ever-increasing demand for new crop biotechnology products. 

CBC will reinforce the potential of rice/crop biotechnology for agricultural productivity through the improvement of infrastructure, facilities, equipment, personnel capability, and networking of the Rice/Crop Biotechnology Center at PhilRice.

The facility is one of the three biotechnology centers under the DA-Biotechnology Program Office (BPO) which are all housed in the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija. It has seven laboratories where different research activities are being conducted: Molecular Genetics, Genetic Transformation, Tissue Culture, Systems Biology, Microbial Biotechnology, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, and Molecular Diagnostic.

Aside from the inauguration, PhilRice has also launched on the same day the Golden Rice, a kind of rice which is rich in beta-carotene (a source of vitamin A) developed as a complementary approach to help curb the vitamin A deficiency or VAD.

The inauguration was also attended by Nueva Ecija’s 2nd District Representative Micaela Violago, 4th District Representative Maricel Natividad Nagaño and Science City of Munoz Mayor Nestor Alvarez. Also present in the program were heads and representatives of various farmer groups, DA Regional Field Office, attached agencies, bureaus and corporations. | With reports from PMKMD-Project Development Section, JC