PHILIPPINES – The Philippines has released its revised biotechnology regulations that aim to improve the administrative process and accelerate the acquiescence of biotech products that impact food security in the country.
The amendments in the Joint Department Circular (JDC) by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) were completed last year.
This was after careful review of the JDC of 2016 that replaced the DA Administrative Order No. 8. One of the major changes in the new JDC is the compliance to the Republic Act No. 11032 or the “Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018”.
The revisions include simplified requirements and procedures and shortened processing time of applications. These amendments will reduce the red tape and speed up the approval process for products of modern biotechnology.
The JDC 2021 accentuates that products of new breeding innovations that do not contain novel combinations of genetic materials obtained through modern biotechnology are not covered by the Circular.
It also states that the Bureau of Plant Industry will serve as the frontline institution to receive and process applications for field trial, commercial propagation, and direct use.
In line with the new regulations, a Joint Assessment Group (JAG) composed of qualified representatives or personnel from the Biosafety Committees and external technical experts will be formed.
The JAG will be in charge of evaluating whether the regulated article does not pose greater risks to human health and the environment than its conventional counterpart.
The group, which will also include External Technical Experts from DOST, DA, DENR, and DOH will then make recommendations to the BPI Director.
The public has been urged to submit information on socio-economic, cultural, and ethical considerations during the public consultation process to be taken into consideration by the BPI Director, together with the technical evaluation on the safety of the product by the Joint Assessment Group, in the approval.
A contingency plan has been added in the supporting documents in case of any unanticipated circumstances during the field trial.
The public has 15 working days from the time the circular was published which was on March 8 2022. This is a reduction from the usual 60 days.
Further, the JDC clarified that regulation of stacked plants developed through conventional breeding of GM parental lines with approved individual events is not considered novel. Thus, the permit holder should request listing of their stacked events in the BPI Approval Registry for commercial propagation of direct use.
Gene stacking refers to the process of combining two or more genes of interest into a single plant. The combined traits resulting from this process are called stacked traits.
It enhances and simplifies pest management for biotech crops as demonstrated by multiple insect resistance based on Bt gene technology.