Tuesday, March 05, 2019

5th March,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

One gets life term in dowry death case

Description: One gets life term in dowry death case
Hisar: A district court on Saturday awarded life imprisonment to a man in a dowry death case. Additional District and Sessions Judge Pankaj awarded the life term to Suresh, husband of Jyoti of Ghiray village in the district, but acquitted his parents. The police had registered the dowry death case on May 25, 2017. The complainant had alleged that Suresh used to harass Jyoti and demand a car as dowry after the marriage. However, a social panchayat brought about reconciliation between them and Suresh assured them that he would not harass Jyoti. TNS
Man booked on rape charge
Hisar: The police registered a case of rape against a man on a complaint by a 30-year-old married woman in the district on Sunday. The police said that the complainant alleged that the accused kidnapped and raped her for nine days at various locations in Rajasthan. The police said a case under Sections 366 (abduction), 376 (rape) and 506 (criminal intimidation) has been registered against Sonu, who is yet to be arrested. TNS
Two rice millers, 8 guarantors booked
Kaithal: The police have registered cases of cheating against two rice millers and eight guarantors. Hafed provided paddy worth crores to two rice mills for custom milling in 2017-18 and 2018-19. The rice millers neither provided rice nor returned paddy worth Rs 11 crore to Hafed. A total of 3,973 metric tonnes (MT) of paddy was given to  Gurbachan Singh, proprietor of Haryana Agro Foods. The firm  delivered   2,662   MT of rice to Hafed with rice worth Rs 6.71 crore outstanding. In the other case, Hafed provided 63,311 quintals of paddy to Ram Ji Rice Land. After supplying some quantity of rice, the firm failed to return rice worth Rs 5.59 crore. OC

New Studies Raise Apprehension About Use of CRISPR Technology in Medicine

Two independent researches, on rice and mouse embryos, found abundant off-target mutations in the experiments using CRISPR, where editing the DNA involved changes of base cytosine to thymine.

05 Mar 2019Description: CRISPR Technology in Medicine
Image Courtesy: Livescience.com. Image for representational use only.
Biology labs around the world, over the past few years, have started seeing the gene editing technology, CRISPR, of having the potential to be used in many aspects of human concerns. Be it developing crops with special traits or newer medicines for dangerous diseases, CRISPR has steadily enhanced research. But, apprehensions about the process of gene editing, especially while using it in medicines are also in place. And two recent research studies published in Science have shown that the gene editing technology could cause many unwanted and potentially dangerous off target genetic changes.
How CRISPR Technology Works
Fundamentally, CRISPR is a technique to edit the genomes of organisms. In its original form, CRISPR guides an enzyme named as Cas9 to a particular target in a genome. The Cas9 is the molecular scissor that cuts the DNA in its both strands. Researchers now can introduce a new sequence in the region where the cut has been made, thus, producing an altogether new sequence. Because of the improvised control that CRISPR technology has, researchers didn’t expect to have off target errors.
CRISPR technology was adapted from the way bacteria and archea defend themselves from outside attacks. In this natural procedure, CRISPRS derived RNA and other kinds of Cas proteins including Cas9 from these organisms. They defend themselves by cutting and destroying the DNA of attackers like viruses.
Studies that Found Off-Target Mutations in Gene Editing
The two independent researches, mainly based in China, worked independently on rice and mouse embryos. Both of the studies found abundant off target mutations in the experiments where editing the DNA involved changes of base cytosine to thymine.
In the rice study led by Gao Caixia of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the researchers compared 77 plants whose DNAs they have edited by altering different bases of the DNAs. The researchers studied the mutation rates in those edited DNAs. They found that when the base cytosine was altered for thymine, the off-target mutations were doubled. In a response to Science, Gao told, “We were so surprised, and worried we had to be really, really careful with our results because the whole world will be looking closely.” He further said, “Fortunately, the other group worked with the mouse and made a very similar observation, and their system, to be honest, is even better than ours.”
In the other study that took into account gene editing by CRISPR in mouse embryo, researchers found similar results. The collaborative study between CAS and Stanford University, California, introduced a DNA base editor to one of the two cells in a newly formed mouse embryo. By comparing the progeny of the two cells, researchers found that when base cytosine was altered, the off-target mutation rate was 20 times more than common background mutation rates. Moreover, some of the mutations took place in crucial regions of the genome that play a role in cancer.
The findings of the studies give warning signals in the use of CRISPR technology. They also hint that more extensive researches should be done before using the gene editing technique in developing medicines targeted for genetic disorders.

Rice tariffication law’s IRR done, sent to NEDA

MARCH 05, 2019
Following a series of consultations among stakeholders of the rice industry, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has completed the implementing rules and regulations
(IRR) for the Rice Tariffication Act (RA 11203).
Description: https://s14255.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/pinol.jpgAgriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol
The DA has also submitted the finished IRR to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for approval, which would signal the official rollout of the law.
“Actually the DA worked overtime. The IRR is complete,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said in a press briefing on Monday. The DA’s nationwide public consultations with local rice farmers ran from Feb. 26 to March 1. Consultations were done in Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Davao City and Iloilo City.
Piñol admitted local farmers feared the law would lead to the death blow to the local rice industry by discouraging rice planters to produce the staple. But the consultations, described by Piñol as a “successful exercise,” helped clear some doubts on the possible effects of the law.
RA 11203 completely abolishes quantitative restrictions to ensure a steady supply of rice in the domestic market, which was also seen to put local producers at a disadvantage for not being able to compete with the imported supply.
But Piñol said imported rice would not penetrate all of the markets in the country as it provides only 15 percent of the total national requirements. “[T]hat volume actually may not be able to influence the prices in other parts of the country to the point that farmers will be losing money,” he said.
“We explained to them (farmers) that even if importers would like to bring in bigger volume of rice, there’s a limitation to how much you can access in the world market and the moment you accept more, there would be a spike of prices in the world market,” Piñol said.
The total volume of rice traded in the world market every year is about 40 million metric tons (MT), with some 38 million MT already committed to specific importing countries. Piñol said farmers mulled for an assurance that there would be no drastic drop in the prices of palay when the law takes affect. Specifically, he said the stakeholders have proposed that the National Food Authority (NFA) be allowed to procure buffer stocks more than 15 to 30 days.
Piñol admitted he supports this position, noting that the NFA’s buffer stocks “should be more than 30 days.” Under the law, the NFA is mandated to have at least 15-days worth of consumption at any given time and 30-day buffer during lean season, which starts in July and ends in September. The lean months is when the country’s rice farmers are planting and rice supply is at its lowest.
As announced, the Rice Tariffication Act takes effect on March 5. It allows unlimited importation of rice as long as traders secure a phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and pay a 35 percent for all imports from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), 40 percent for in-quota or within minimum access volume (MAV) from non-Asean, and 180 percent for out-quota and non-Asean or as calculated by the Tariff Commission.
The new law also calls for the establishment of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) which will be endowed with P10 billion a year for six years to improve mechanization, access to seed and financing in the industry.

Farmers contest rice tariffication law hours before IRR signing

Rice farmers are questioning if the law will be properly implemented
Anna Gabriela A. Mogato
Published 1:45 PM, March 05, 2019
Updated 1:45 PM, March 05, 2019
Description: NO PROTECTION. Rice industry stakeholders, primarily farmers, are concerned that there aren't enough safeguards in the law despite the government's promise to protect the industry. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler
NO PROTECTION. Rice industry stakeholders, primarily farmers, are concerned that there aren't enough safeguards in the law despite the government's promise to protect the industry. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Rice stakeholders expressed frustration with what they say is the lack of safeguards in the rice tariffication law, hours before the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the measure was set to be signed.
In a press conference on Tuesday, March 5, Federation of Free Farmers president Raul Montemayor said the law has loopholes which the government has not been able to answer. (READ: Duterte signs rice tariffication law)
Montemayor was also present during the government's consultations with rice stakeholders last week to aid the drafting of the IRR, which they also found problematic.
"What came out was that they don't have a plan, they don't know what to do. The best answer came from NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) – they said they will still study it," Montemayor said in Filipino.

NFA to halt regulatory functions on March 5

"The what-if scenarios aren't clear yet. The law isn't well-thought-out. They just wanted to bring in more rice to lower the inflation rate. They're just thinking about it now."
Among the questions raised by the stakeholders were the ability of President Rodrigo Duterte to use his powers to adjust the tariff in case too much or too little rice is coming into the market, and the capability of the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy palay and sell cheap rice.
As the NFA also loses its regulatory powers starting Tuesday, Montemayor questioned how else could the rice industry be protected from the influx of rice imports or smuggling.
While the IRR can provide more details of the law's implementation, the stakeholders are concerned that it will still be limited by the law.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol told reporters on Monday, March 4, that they have taken the rice stakeholders' comments into consideration for the drafting of the IRR.
So far, Piñol said they are still eyeing to raise the NFA's buffer stock so it would last more than 30 days. Duterte said last year that the country should have enough buffer stock for 60 days. (READ: Filipino farmers urged to sell their palay to NFA)
Aside from this, the Department of Agriculture can still extend partial regulatory powers through the Price Act.
However, the final contents of the IRR will still depend on NEDA. – Rappler.com

Rice tariffication law IRR set to be signed March 5

Inputs from farmers and other rice industry stakeholders are expected to be inserted into the IRR
Anna Gabriela A. Mogato
Published 4:33 PM, March 04, 2019
Updated 4:52 PM, March 04, 2019
Description: SPECULATIONS. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol pointed to the industry's uncertainty as the reason behind the temporary climb of palay's farmgate prices. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler
SPECULATIONS. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol pointed to the industry's uncertainty as the reason behind the temporary climb of palay's farmgate prices. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication law is set to be signed on Tuesday, March 5, also the same day when the law is scheduled to take effect.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol told reporters in a briefing on Monday, March 4, that while they were able to fast track the drafting of the IRR after holding consultations with farmers in various provinces last week.
"There were actually misgivings initially... towards the end, the stakeholders understood that it's there, there’s nothing they can actually do about it," he added.
"[T]hey actually relented when we appealed to them to give the law a chance to be implemented."
The faster the implementation of the law, will also mean that revenues coming from tariffs will start pouring into the Rice Competitiveness and Enhancement Fund sooner, Piñol reasoned.
During the consultation, Piñol said that farmers only asked that there should be a way to make sure that the farmgate prices for palay, or unhusked rice, will not drop too low that they would be losing money.
According to the draft IRR presented by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) last week, there will be a "preferential attention" given to farmers and cooperatives should they be heavily affected by the the law.
However, the draft also said that a "selection criteria" will also be identified and used for this.
"One of the salient points raised by the stakeholders would be for the NFA (National Food Authority) to be allowed to procure buffer stocks [to last] more than just 15 to 30 days," Piñol said.
"That's the way it should be. Because the moment that prices drop, they (farmers) have somewhere to turn to. And I think NEDA will take that into consideration [for the IRR]," he added.
According to the draft IRR, NFA's buffer stocks will still follow the 15-day and 30-day inventory system until December 2019.
Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered to have at least 60 days' worth of buffer stock, higher than the usually mandate of the NFA to always have 15 days' worth of buffer stocks at any given time and 30 days' worth of buffer stocks during lean season.

Aside from this, the farmers were also told that there is still a limit in bringing in imported rice as an influx of this would ramp up its price in the world market.
"Imported rice cannot fully penetrate the market, only 15% of that total [rice] requirement at best, actually. That volume will not be able to influence the prices in all parts of the country to the point that farmers will be losing the money," Piñol said.
However, Piñol said that there may be an issue with implementing the law if the IRR will not be immediately signed tomorrow.
Aside from consultations, the Department of Agriculture and representatives from NEDA also took time to explain the Rice Tariffication law to the farmers in detail.
Piñol noted that this could help clear up the uncertainty from the industry that he said lead to the initial drop in farmgate prices for palay, or unhusked rice.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that the average farmgate price for palay posted a slight increment to P19.64 per kilogram (kg) during the third week of February from P19.63 per kg a week prior.
This is, however, lower by 1.46% from last year’s P19.93 per kg when the palay prices were continuously increasing amid the low buffer stocks of the National Food Authority.
Average wholesale and retail prices of well milled rice posted a slight decline by 0.43% to P41.22 per kg and 0.27% P44.63 per kg, respectively. These are, however, higher in a year on year comparison.
Average wholesale and retail prices of regular milled rice also saw a decline by 0.87% to P37.76 per kg and 0.90% to P40.72 per kg, respectively. Similar to well milled rice, both average prices of wholesale and retail prices arehigher from a year ago –Rappler.com

Palay prices firm, rice prices edge down in 3rd week of Feb.
March 4, 2019 | 10:17 pm
Description: rice farmerPHILSTAR
THE average farmgate price of palay, or unmilled rice, rose 0.05% week on week to P19.64 per kilogram in the third week of February, according to data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Monday.
According to PSA, the average price of wholesale well-milled rice, fell 0.43% week on week to P41.22 per kg. At retail, well-milled rice averaged P44.63, down 0.27% from a week earlier.
The average wholesale price of regular-milled rice fell 0.87% week on week to P37.76 per kg. The average retail average price fell 0.90% to P40.72 per kg.
In a news conference, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that price of rice at farmgate level is now starting to recover after a drastic drop to an average of P14 to P15 per kg, amid speculation of price pressure brought on by imported rice under the Rice Tariffication Act.
“The DA believes that the fall to P15 was only an initial market shock. The price is returning to P17 to P18,” Mr. Piñol told reporters in Quezon City on Monday.
“Right now the farmers are starting to realize that the price pressure is not that intense. We explained to them that even if the importers bring in bigger volumes of rice, there’s a limit to how much you can access in the world market. If you access more, world prices would spike,” Mr. Piñol said. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio
Effects of rice tariffication law temporary: Piñol
By Cherry Mhae Palicte  March 2, 2019, 8:33 pm
DAVAO CITY -- Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol assured farmers that the effects of the rice tariffication law are only temporary.

During a consultation held in Davao City on Thursday, farmers from various parts of Mindanao expressed their apprehension with the law.

“If there is an adverse effect, it will be temporary. Continue planting rice and don’t fear the influx of rice imports. If you stop planting rice and our production will decrease to 60 percent, surely the traders will manipulate the prices,” Piñol told the farmers.

He also clarified reports that the current low buying price of unhusked rice is brought about by the rice tariffication law, saying it was not the case.

However, Piñol told farmers that the influx of cheap imported milled rice could result to lower wholesale price of milled rice at PHP35.31 per/kg (from the average of PHP42.25 per/kg in 2018) and lower farmgate price at PHP16.94 per/kg (from an average of PHP20.43 per/kg in 2018).

He also called on farmers to trust President Rodrigo Duterte, "who himself understood that it (rice tarrification) would be beneficial to all."

He assured that the Department of Agriculture will continue to help farmers improve their competitiveness and farm income, enhance resiliency to disasters and climate risks, and ensure access to safe and nutritious rice.

Piñol said rice farmers can avail of assistance from the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which has a PHP10 billion allocation from RA 11203 on top of the budget of DA’s Rice Program.

He said about PHP5 billion is allotted for farm mechanization, PHP3 billion for seeds, PHP1 billion for credit, and PHP1 billion for technical skills training.

“DA will help you along the way. Just tell us what to do and what you need,” he added. (PNA)

Push for cost-competitive rice production continues
(The Philippine Star) - March 3, 2019 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — Some experts maintain that targeting a national average rice yield level of six tons per hectare (t/ha) is too much to achieve self-sufficiency and that 4.5t/ha will be enough.
This may be true if the country is only interested in achieving self-sufficiency per se, disregarding competition from imported rice. But in the context of ASEAN economic integration, the Philippines must produce rice at a competitive price to profitably sell it in a common regional market.
The Philippine rice industry is now staring at a different scenario. Because of the Philippines’ commitment to the World Trade Organization, the country needs to replace its quantitative restriction (QR) policy with its tariff equivalent.
QR is a trade restriction placed on the amount of an item or service that can be imported into a country. Tariff refers to a tax levied on a commodity imported from another country.
Along with this, there are bills pending in Congress to have the tariff policy fully implemented. Under a tariff regime, the government can no longer restrict the total amount of rice to be imported into the country.
As a consequence, importers can bring in rice from abroad as long as they see it profitable after paying for transportation, insurance, port charges, and most especially the tariffs or taxes imposed by the government. This will mean stiff competition between domestically produced and imported rice.
If rice will be imported from an ASEAN member-country such as Thailand or Vietnam, the tariff will be 35 percent of the value. At this tariff level, the landed cost in Manila of white Thai rice with 25 percent broken grains will be around P31 per kilogram and P27/kg if from Vietnam, according to a study by the Philippine Rice Research Institute.
While this will benefit consumers, especially the poor who spend about a third of their income on food, it will distort and reduce the prices of domestically produced rice. This will further disadvantage the income of Filipino rice farmers who, at present, only produce an average of less than 4t/ha per season at a high cost of P12/kg.
If the landed cost of imported rice prevails in the wholesale market, and wholesalers, rice millers, and paddy traders maintain their marketing margins, this will mean that a rice farmer, say, in Nueva Ecija, will need to produce a kilo of paddy at around P8 to hold on to his current profit margin.
At an average production cost of P48,000/ha, the Filipino farmer must produce a yield of around six tons in order to put up a semblance of competitiveness with Thai and Vietnamese farmers.
Thus, averaging 6t/ha with a production cost of P8 per kilo, courtesy of strategic government support such as cost-reducing technologies, free irrigation, and post-harvest facilities in the medium term (until 2022) will make Filipino farmers competitive.
It will also probably sustain the country’s rice industry in the long run. Beyond this period, more efficient marketing and production measures will need to be pursued for the country to remain competitive.
In less favorable areas where it is more difficult to increase rice yields and farmers incur higher production costs, farmers are at higher risk of bowing out of the rice business. The government must then provide safety nets such as training on diversified farming systems and start-up production support, so they will have an easier transition into equally fruitful economic activities.
If and when this happens, the area planted to rice will surely shrink. This means that those who remain in the rice industry must attain higher yields to help feed the country. This gives impetus to the urgent need of modernizing Philippine agriculture that systematically links and manages the whole value chain from pre-production, production, processing, marketing, and consumption.
Modernization will continuously improve agricultural productivity and add value to all the players in the system, especially poor and marginalized farmers.
The main drivers in this transformation are programs propelled by science-based innovations, policy reforms, sound management and governance systems, a new breed of entrepreneurs, mobilized farming communities, and market-oriented agro-based processing industries.
If farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos at competitive prices through modern agriculture, then the country will achieve its much-cherished quest for sustainable rice security. – PhilRice


Banks promise loans to struggling rice exporters

Update: March, 04/2019 - 08:00The banking industry, under the Government’s guidance, has commmitted to offering low-interest loans to enterprises so they can buy, store and export rice. — Photo baomoi.com
HCM CITY — The State Bank of Việt Nam (SBV) has urged credit institutions to ensure adequate funds to meet the capital demands of rice exporters for the winter-spring crop this year.
Since the Lunar New Year (Tết) holiday, the rice export market has seen prices dropping due to oversupply.
The SBV directed commercial banks to focus on timely lending to enterprises so they can buy rice from farmers. 
At a meeting held late last week in Đồng Tháp Province, commercial banks, including Agribank, Vietcombank and Sacombank, committed to providing loans worth trillions of Vietnamese đồng with an interest rate of 6 per cent per year to rice enterprises.
Nghiêm Xuân Thành, chairman of Vietcombank, said the bank committed to provide low-interest loans worth VNĐ9 trillion (US$387.82 million) to rice enterprises that have feasible plans. 
Trịnh Ngọc Khánh, chairman of Agribank’s Members’ Council, also committed to ensure sufficient capital for lending. 
The banks have committed to creating favourable conditions for individuals and businesses to access capital for production, and the purchase and consumption of rice.
SBV Governor Lê Minh Hưng said the banking sector would strive to meet the needs of farmers and businesses in the production, purchasing, processing and consumption of rice with appropriate interest rates, terms and loan cycles.
Banks have been urged to work closely with enterprises to resolve their capital problems and offer solutions, which could include increasing the loan limit and speeding up disbursement for enterprises so they can quickly purchase paddy.
In addition, the central bank has asked its branches in 13 Mekong Delta provinces to closely follow changes in the paddy market and credit activities in the region to advise provincial people’s committees and the central bank about solutions to boost lending.
Lending to the rice industry and to agricultural and rural development in general is the focus of the banking industry, according to Hưng. The credit balance of the sector accounts for a large proportion of the credit of the entire economy.
Nguyễn Quốc Hùng, director of the Credit Department of SBV, said that, as of the end of last year, the credit balance for agricultural and rural areas nationwide increased by 21.4 per cent compared to the same period in the previous year.
Last year, total outstanding loans of the rice industry reached VNĐ99 trillion, an increase of VNĐ29.8 trillion compared to the end of 2017.
Lê Minh Hoan, secretary of the Đồng Tháp Province’s Party Committee, said it was important to create a longer-term vision for the rice industry, which affects millions of farmers. 
The region needs a specific action plan to resolve the problem of “high cost yet poor quality”, he said.
Cooperation among the sectors is needed and cooperative models are a promising solution in restructuring the agricultural sector.
Phạm Thái Bình, director of the Trung An High-Tech Agricultural Joint Stock Company, said that large-scale fields could create value chains between businesses and farmers. 
However, the large-scale field model accounts for only about 100,000 hectares out of a total of two million hectares in the region.
Bình has asked the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to address any issue related to the sustainable development of the rice industry. — VNS

Economic cluster optimistic inflation to continue downtrend for rest of 2019

Published March 5, 2019 4:01pm 
Inflation is likely to continue its downward path for the rest of the year given recent developments in the country, members of the government's economic cluster said Tuesday.
"[W]e are optimistic that the downward path of inflation will continue for the rest of the year," the Departments of Finance and Budget and Management, as well as the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said in a joint statement.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) earlier on Tuesday reported inflation at 3.8 percent in February, marking the fourth consecutive month of deceleration.
"We, the economic managers, are pleased by the report that the country’s inflation rate slid further to 3.8 percent in February as price levels start to normalize and settle back to the government’s target," the economic cluster said.
"This will be backed by the recent enactment of the Rice Industry Modernization Act (RA 11203), which is expected to bring down rice prices and cut inflation by 0.5 to 0.7 percentage points this year and 0.3 to 0.4 percentage points next year," it explained.
The Rice Tariffication Law also allows the unlimited importation of rice as long as private sector traders secure a phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and pay the 35-percent tariff for shipments from neighbors in Southeast Asia.
The law earmarks P10 billion for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), of which P5 billion will be allotted to farm mechanization and P3 billion to seedlings. The fund intends to ensure that rice imports won’t drown out the agriculture sector and rob farmers of their livelihood.
"Based on the monitoring of the Philippine Statistics Authority, prevailing retail prices of regular-milled rice has now declined by around PhP5.00 since it peaked in September 2018," the statement read.
"Our work does not stop here. We must ensure that the change to a rice tariff regime—from government-led to market-led—is seamless and fast," it added.
In terms of the expected El Niño which the state weather bureau PAGASA forecasts to come in during the first quarter, the economic team said the government must take steps to strengthen the agriculture sector.
"Around 19 provinces are expected to experience drought this year including Metro Manila," the economic team said.
"Thus, the government must take pro-active measures to mitigate its adverse impacts on the agriculture sector in the immediate term and to increase its resiliency against extreme weather conditions over the medium to long term," it added.
The economic cluster said it will also remain watchful of developments in the global oil market, as it noted that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) should increase its efforts to cover more of the targeted beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pasada Program.
"Nevertheless, the economic team is upbeat that inflation is again starting to become manageable," it said.
"While we constantly keep a close watch on the general prices of goods, we can now pay greater attention to programs that will further propel economic growth and help us reach our long-term development goals," the statement added.
For his part, Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes noted that while the recent inflation figures are welcome, this should be made sustainable.
"Inflation could have been lower if the excise tax on fuel was removed. This comprises a staggering P9 per liter for gasoline. The erosion of income last year cannot be recovered by the easing of inflation now," he said in a separate statement.
"We thus maintain that candidates seeking Senate and congressional seats should be asked whether they are in favor of removing excise tax on petroleum products," he added.
The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017, also provides that starting 2019, excise taxes for diesel be hiked by a total of P4.50 and those of gasoline by P9.00 under the second tranche."The TRAIN Law green remains an important issue even during the elections," said Reyes. — BM, GMA News

BSP: Monetary settings remain appropriate, premature to talk about RR cuts

Published March 5, 2019 3:42pm 
While the February inflation print fell in line with the government target, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Tuesday said it is still premature to talk about possible cuts in the reserve requirement, and current monetary settings remain appropriate.
"This is consistent with our forecasts that for 2019 and 2020, inflation is expected to average at around 3 percent, highlighting the non-persistence of supply-side pressures we managed in 2018 with the tightening moves of the BSP from May through November," BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said in a text message.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) earlier in the day announced the February inflation print at 3.8 percent, the slowest since the 4.3 percent in March 2018.
With this, Guinigundo said the monetary settings—overnight borrowing rate at 4.75 percent, the overnight lending rate at 5.25 percent, and the overnight deposit rate at 4.25 percent—remain appropriate.
"We continue to consider our current monetary settings as appropriate given the emerging risks both here and abroad," he said.
The Monetary Board is scheduled to meet on March 21 to discuss whether or not current conditions warrant a change in key policy settings.
"[T]he Monetary Board will be meeting this month precisely to review the stance of monetary policy given the expected new data that would be available from now until the next meeting against the backdrop of a softening global economy," said Guinigundo.
"It may be premature to talk about a possible reduction in either policy rate or the RRR at this time considering that the year-to-date inflation remains above the target of 2-4 percent," he explained.
The late BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla, Jr., who died last month after battling tongue cancer for more than a year, said he wanted to cut the reserve requirement ratio to the single-digit level during his term, which was supposed to end in 2023.
"More important, our forecasts for the next two years are anchored on the current policy rate of 4.75 percent. But these policy issues will remain on the table. Timing is the critical issue," said Guinigundo. — BM, GMA News

Newton Fund's Sustainable Rice Initiative

Last week, Thailand’s National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) and the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), hosted a workshop in Bangkok on sustainable rice production.
Published 4 March 2019

Description: Newton Fund's Sustainable Rice InitiativeBrian Davidson, British Ambassador to Thailand

Science and innovation is at the forefront of the modern partnership between Thailand and the UK. Both countries recognise the importance of strong science as key to our continuing development and prosperity. We also recognise the importance of international collaboration to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery.
This international collaboration is exemplified by the Newton UK - Thailand Research and Innovation Partnership Fund. Launched in 2014, the Fund is supporting up to 325 million Thai baht worth of joint science and innovation activities – and is jointly funded by both the UK and Thailand.
Under the Partnership Fund, the UK and Thai governments support a diverse range of world class science. This includes research on human and animal health; agriculture; resilience against drought and other extreme weather; as well as the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship. This work helps to tackle difficult global challenges, as well as supporting “Thailand 4.0”, Thailand’s ambitious economic development strategy.
Last week, Thailand’s National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) and the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), hosted a workshop in Bangkok on sustainable rice production. The workshop brought together scientists from the UK, Thailand, China, the Philippines and Vietnam to discuss the outcomes of their joint research, which was funded through the Sustainable Rice Research Initiativeunder the Newton.
The scientists presented some of the key findings from their research. They also discussed some of the opportunities and challenges in relation to rice. These included improving rice breeding and the development of new strains, increasing the nutritional value of rice, as well as maintaining crop yield under difficult environmental conditions.
Description: #NewtonRice2019
After three years of research, initial findings look promising. The researchers are helping to make rice production more resilient to the growing risks of climate change, ensuring it will continue to play its vital role as a staple food in both Thailand and the region. The burning of rice straw is also a major contributor to pollution and greenhouse gases, and researchers are looking closely at the alternatives.
At the workshop in Bangkok, Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Jantong presented poster awards to some of the most exciting and innovative projects in the initiative. He spoke about the importance of rice to the Thai economy and the Thai people, as well as to consumers around the world. He also spoke about the importance of research into improvements to the way rice is bred and grown, so that it can be more resilient to the threats of pests, climate change, and weather extremes.
This Sustainable Rice Research Initiative has brought together UK and Thai scientific excellence, with partners from around the region, to improve our understanding of a crop which is vital for health and economic wellbeing. I look forward to further work under the Newton UK - Thailand Research and Innovation Partnership Fund in other, equally important, areas of science and innovation, and to continuing to deepen our research and innovation cooperation with Thailand.

CRISPR base-editing linked to off-target effects

4 March 2019
Appeared in BioNews 989
Two new studies suggest that a form of CRISPR base editing is more error-prone than previously thought. 
The results of the studies published in the journal Science – which examined base editing methods in mouse embryos and rice – could have implications for the therapeutic potential of this form of genome editing.
'The single-base gene-editing method was believed to be safe but the new testing tool showed the contrary, so we should make clinical standards as soon as possible to ensure the safety of gene-editing technique,' said Dr Yang Hui of the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who led the mouse study. 
Both studies concluded that cytosine base editing was associated with a large number of off-target mutations. This form of editing changes the DNA bases cytosine to thymidine. However, both studies also found that a different form of base editing, which converts adenine to guanine, was not linked to wide off-target effects. 
Scientists in the mouse study developed a new method of measuring off-target effects called Genome-wide Off-Target analysis. The researchers edited one cell of a mouse embryo when it was at two-celled stage. They introduced a fluorescent marker so that they could distinguish edited cells from unedited cells. After allowing the cells to grow and divide, they were then able to examine the daughter cells of both the edited and non-edited cells and check for mutations. 
The adenine base editor was associated with almost no off-target effects, but the cytosine base editor changed around one nucleotide in 20 million. That is about 20 times above the mutation rate in ordinary cell division. Some of these mutations occurred in genome regions that are associated with cancer development leading to concern that use of this form of base editing could increase cancer risk. 
Professor David Liu, whose group pioneered cytosine base editing said of the mouse study: 'It's a clever, elegant method designed to boost the signal so that we can now detect and understand these rarer types of guide-independent, off-target events.'
The rice study analysed DNA in 77 plants that had been altered with different base editors, controls and untreated plants. The researchers found that cytosine base editing roughly doubled the background mutation rate.
CRISPR base-editing technologies had been widely believed to be a safer form of genome editing and several companies are already investigating the feasibility of using it as a therapy for inherited genetic mutations in humans. The results from these two papers highlight that cytosine base editing may not be as safe as believed. However, the mouse study used higher levels of base editor than is likely to be needed for therapy in a clinical context, and it is possible that using a lower level of base editor might reduce this risk, the authors note.
Commenting in WiredDr Steve Murray at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, who is part of a consortium developing safeguards and standards around therapeutic genome-editing, said: 'I don't think we or anybody can come up with a hard and fast rule, that above a certain number of errors it's not useful for anything and below which it's useful for everything. Every disease is different. Every therapy is different. Every patient is different.'
CGTN |  1 March 2019
STAT News |  28 February 2019
Science |  28 February 2019
Science |  28 February 2019
Wired |  28 February 2019
5 November 2018 - by Eleanor Lynam 
The genome editing system, CRISPR/Cas9, may not be as successful in humans as hoped...
29 October 2018 - by Shaoni Bhattacharya 
Researchers have identified a new enzyme to make the genome editing approach, CRISPR, able to target more locations within the genome...
28 August 2018 - by Alexander Ware 
A new approach to treating Marfan syndrome may be on the horizon, thanks to developments in genome editing...
30 October 2017 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Scientists have developed the genome editing technique known as 'base editing' to turn adenine-thymine base pairs back to guanine-cytosine...
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Rice Reigns at 2019 Farm & Gin Show  

MEMPHIS, TN -- Over the weekend, this city was "Ag Central," hosting the 67th Annual Farm & Gin Show with more than 400 exhibitors and 15,000 attendees, of which most are farmers.  And just about everyone one of them stopped by the USA Rice booth to spin the THINK RICE wheel and test their rice knowledge.

"It's amazing how many young attendees make their way back to the booth each year, wanting to spin the wheel and answer their question," said Josh Hankins, USA Rice director of grower relations and the Rice Stewardship Partnership.  "I lost track of the number of people who said they looked for the booth each year, even waiting in line at times, to share in the rice trivia experience with us."

While many of the "contestants" got their answer correct, no one left the booth without learning a little more about the rice industry, or a take away to remind them about USA Rice.  Crayons and informative coloring booklets were a hit with the children, but their parents also received new recipe brochures and other handouts on the versatility and nutritious value of U.S.-grown rice.

For most events, inclement weather can have a negative impact on attendance, but in farming, it can be the opposite. Rice farmer Eric Unkel, from Kinder, Louisiana, attended this year's show, and said, "With field work stalled due to the rainy weather over the weekend, it was an opportunity to come up and learn more about the latest technologies, new products, and services, as well as visit with old friends."

Vegetables-Based Rice: RightRice Receives $5.5 Million Minority Investment Led By Strand Equity

·       Description: Douglas YuVegetables-based grain brand RightRice has secured a $5.5 million minority investment led by Strand Equity after launching its products exclusively in Whole Foods across the U.S. and via Amazon.RightRice was created by Keith Belling who is also the mastermind behind one of the fastest-growing potato chips brands Popchips, and it is one of the first brands to launch in collaboration with both Whole Foods and Amazon.
Keith Belling is the creator of RightRiceRIGHTRICE
Belling said in a statement: “We are thrilled that Seth Rodsky (founder and managing partner of Strand Equity) and Strand wanted to lead our round, and that so many tastemakers and industry leaders shared my vision for RightRice.”
“Seth was one of my favorite and most helpful investors at Popchips and was my first call when I started thinking about funding,” he added.
Furthering plant-based movement
Strand Equity prides itself on being a leading growth equity firm investing in the next generation of consumer brands. It partners with emerging brands to scale their businesses through its marketing and operational expertise, as well as its extensive network of industry relationships.


The firm has invested in some of the most prominent brands in the better-for-you category in the past, including Hippeas, antioxidant-infused beverage company Bai, and baby foods brand Happy Family which was sold to Danone in 2013.
Strand Equity’s latest investment was triggered by the $3 billion rice category that Rodsky described as “massive,” yet it has experienced “little or no innovation” over the years. RightRice, however, came to the market as a disruptor.
RightRice is “one of the most compelling brands and product propositions we’ve seen,” he said. “We are excited for the chance to invest in Keith, who has proven to be an innovator and category creator.”
Belling and Rodsky also worked closely to put together a group of investors that help RightRice with various facets of the business as it launches and grows.
RightRice has three already seasoned varieties.RIGHTRICE
The investors group includes celebrities and executives in the food, retail, sports and entertainment industries, such as Kris Jenner, Ashley Graham, Impossible Foods’ COO David Lee, Roc Nation’s CEO Jay Brown, as well as VaynerMedia’s CEO Gary Vaynerchuk.
Lee said in a statement: “For me, RightRice is more than just a great investment. It’s a chance for me to further the movement in the plant-based eating.”
Down the road, Belling said the investment proceeds will be used for supporting RightRice’s launch and driving the brand’s awareness and sales.
“We’re taking a grassroots approach to building our brand, with a mix of social and digital media integrated with creative influencer marketing campaigns,” he said.
Putting more rice back on people’s plates
The creation of RightRice stemmed from Belling’s passion for rice and his vision to create the first dry and shelf-stable rice grain made from a blend of nutritious vegetables on the market.
“Similar to Popchips which evolved from my passion for snacking,” he said. “I have always loved rice but found myself eating a lot less because of the empty calories and all the carbs.
“When I talked to friends about it, I was surprised by how many people [also] told me they were eating a lot less rice, or had cut it out entirely… And like me, many of them said that cauliflower rice didn’t give them what they were looking for in terms of taste, texture or flavor,” added Belling.
So RightRice needs to make up all the nutrients consumers are not able to find in the regular and cauliflower rice, and it also must hit on taste, texture and ease of cooking.
RightRice follows the plant-based diet movement.RIGHTRICE
“It took a lot of trial and error before we found just the right blend of lentils, chickpeas, green peaks and a bit of rice,” Belling said, adding that over 90% of the product itself is vegetables, thus it easily caters to the trendy consumer demand for plant-based diet.
“We’re excited at the chance to help reinvigorate the rice aisle by leading a new category of vegetable rice that puts more rice on people’s plates,” he said.
Additionally, RightRice contains 10 grams of protein and five grams of fiber per serving, which is more than twice the amount of protein and five times the amount of fiber as white rice.
“One of the reasons why rice is so popular across cultures and demographics is its ability to soak up flavors and sauces. And capturing that was one of the most important milestones when we developed the product,” added Belling.
RightRice is currently available in an original version, as well as in three already seasoned varieties – lemon pepper, Spanish and garlic herb.
“Our already seasoned flavors mean no more mystery pack of ingredients to pour into the saucepan,” said Belling. “And RightRice cooks quickly and easily, offering protein packed meal solutions whether as a side dish or as part of classic rice dishes like paella or risotto.”
Description: Douglas Yu
I previously worked at William Reed Business Media for three years, covering consumer trends, regulations, M&A and sustainability in the confectionery and snacks sectors. I shared my ‘sweet’ insights with several mainstream media outlets, including Washington Post, NPR’...
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How to stop an insect apocalypse

Posted by Tremont Staff on March 5, 2019 at 2:00 am
How to stop an insect apocalypse
We might not love creepy-crawlies, but if insects were to vanish within a century, as some scientists predict, there would be dire consequences for us humans. Is it too late to save bees, bugs and butterflies?
We often pay little attention to  unless one happens to bite, sting or generally bother us. But lately, they‘ve become an unlikely source of nostalgia.
People have started to notice their absence, reminiscing about unwittingly swallowing tiny flies while cycling through the countryside, about car windscreens splattered with dead bodies at the end of a long journey or moths flocking to the light when a window was left open.
And science is backing up such anecdotal observations. A  says insects are hurtling down the path to extinction.
More than 40 percent of species are in decline and a third is endangered, the analysis found. Worldwide, we lose 2.5 percent of insect biomass each year, and if numbers continue to fall at their current rate, there could be no insects left in 100 years.
The results are “shocking,” says Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, environmental scientists at the University of Sydney and co-author of the study. He predicts “catastrophic consequences.”
“The word catastrophic is appropriate because the disappearance of insects brings with it the starvation of myriad vertebrates that depend on them, and therefore the collapse of entire ecosystems,” he told DW.
Insects don‘t only play an important role in our food production, by providing a free , but are themselves food for all kind of animals. Without bugs, amphibians and  and fish would struggle to find enough food.
The six-legged helpers also clear away carcasses of animals that die in the wild and decompose plant waste. Without bugs, life as we know it would come to a halt.

A world without insects

Permalink https://p.dw/p/3DqSG

A world without insects

But is it too late to stop an insect apocalypse? Read on for three main drivers of insect declines and possible solutions.
Intensive agriculture is bug-unfriendly
According to the meta analysis, the steepest declines in insect biomass have occurred in the past 30 years. Sanchez-Bayo says this is the direct result of agricultural intensification.
The Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s changed the way farmers tended their fields. Fallow practices were abandoned, monocultures were developed and artificial fertilizers were introduced as a means avoiding nutrient depletion in the soil.
became common features of pest and weed control, and trees and hedgerows were eliminated to generate more space.
Though this resulted in a huge gain in yield, it also implied a loss of insect habitat and led to chemical residues .
Sanchez-Bayo says the world needs to change the way it grows food. One way forward could be a farming method known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which combines traditional agricultural practices with modern technologies.
“IPM advocates the use of natural means of pest and weed control, rotation of crops to maximize biodiversity of beneficial insects and avoid nutrient depletion, and only uses pesticides as the last tool to control a pest or weed outbreak,” Sanchez-Bayo told DW.
By way of example, he cited the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, which managed to reduce the use of insecticides in rice crops by 93 percent without losing yields.
Monocultures provide little food for butterflies and other insects
Climate change could cause major insect wipeout
Although intensive agriculture has been identified as the main driver for insect declines in Europe, scientists say the main culprits in other parts of the world are climate change and deforestation.
Even in pristine, virgin tropics, far away from fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides, insect numbers have steadily dropped.
In Puerto Rico‘s Luquillo rainforest, for example, . During the same period, forest temperatures have risen 2 degrees Celcius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The number of lizards, frogs and birds that eat insects has declined synchronously.
Calculations by researcers at the highlight the correlation between global warming and insect survival.
Their projections suggest that if we experienced global warming of 3.2 degrees Celcius above preindustrial levels, as is likely on the basis of current pledges made under the Paris Climate Agreement, 49 percent of insects would lose half of their geographic range.
If we limited warming to 2 degrees Celcius above preindustrial levels, 18  percent would lose half of their range. In a 1.5 degree scenario, however, the number would drop to six percent.
Rachel Warren, lead author of the study, says it‘s very possible that population decreases would actually be even larger than projected because they didn‘t factor such things as intensive agriculture into their calculations.
“It‘s no question that there are many pressures on insects and if we don‘t achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, there will be another big pressure on them,” Warren told DW.
She says it‘s not only important that we manage to achieve the 1.5 C degree goal, but how we achieve it.
“Land availability is a major factor for insect losses. If we use too much land to grow plants for biomass energy, that would be bad for biodiversity,” she explained. “So anything we can do to reduce our energy and land demand, such as using less power and eating less red meat, is great.”
Urbanization  let your garden grow wild
Big cities and concrete landscapes also play a significant role in insect numbers, and  of the global population expected to be living in urban areas by 2050, that impact is set to grow.
Densely built neighborhoods and sealed, concrete roads strip bees and bugs of their natural habitats, while light pollution leads nocturnal insects astray.
Wild, native flower meadows offer vital food and micro-habitats for many insects, especially in cities
Researchers are therefore calling on governments to create more green spaces in cities by rewilding public parks and private gardens, and planting wild flowers along roadsides and on traffic islands.
A  in Switzerland found that nature-friendly gardens, with deadwood, compost, unmowed grassland and native flowers, can greatly increase the biodiversity of flying and soil-dwelling insects and largely compensate for the negative effects of urbanization.
The wilder and more diverse the gardens, the more insects the researchers counted, including rare millipedes that have not yet been found anywhere else in Switzerland.
Brigitte Braschler, biologist at the Universtiy of Basel and co-author of the study, has been researching insects her entire life and says that although the decline in biodiversity “is very strong”, it‘s not too late to change the trend.
“The public is waking up to the problem and is willing to act. Certain species are already lost but I‘m positive we can stop the decline or at least slow it down,” Braschler told DW. 
Health minister urges public to eat fortified rice
Health and Sports Minister Dr Myint Htwe has urged people to eat fortified rice to prevent stunting in children and anaemia in pregnant women and children.
He said fortified rice with the right micronutrient composition is produced by the Myanmar Rice Millers Association.
"People need to know the advantages of fortified rice,” the health minister said at a recent workshop on fortified rice in Yangon. “If they consume fortified rice, they can prevent stunting, anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies."
Malnutrition is a pressing health challenge for the country. Forty percent of pregnant women suffer from anaemia and one in four children is small for their age in Myanmar, according to the Nationwide Micronutrient and Food Consumption Survey for 2017-18.
Fortified rice, with its added nutrients, is a good way to address micronutrient deficiency and malnutrition.
Fortified rice is enriched with vitamins and minerals, including eight essential micronutrients: iron, zinc, folic acid, and vitamins A, B1, B3, B6 and B12.
PATH – a global non-profit organisation that works to accelerate health equity by bringing together public institutions, businesses, social enterprises, and investors to solve the world's most pressing health challenges – is working with 20 private-sector partners in Myanmar, such as rice millers and equipment producers, to ensure that good manufacturing and hygiene standards are met at factories and production plants.
"People in Myanmar are among the highest rice consumers in the world. Therefore, if we add nutrients to rice for prevention of micronutrient deficiency, we can solve the nutrition problem,” said Daw Lwin Mar Hlaing, deputy director of the Department of Public Health’s National Nutrition Centre.
Only 14 rice millers produce fortified rice with the right micronutrient content among the hundreds of registered rice millers nationwide.
An estimated 350,000 people eat fortified rice in the country, according to the centre.

AVA investigating case of dead rat found in bag of rice

The rat was found in a bag of House Brand basmati rice bought at Sheng Siong. (Photo: Facebook/Vegnesh Jodimani) 
04 Mar 2019 04:23PM (Updated: 04 Mar 2019 11:45PM)

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said on Sunday (Mar 3) it was investigating a case of a dead rat found in a bag of rice. 
The incident came to light when Facebook user Vegnesh Jodimani shared a photo of the dead rodent, which he said had been in a bag of House Brand basmati rice from Sheng Siong supermarket.
In the post on Saturday afternoon, Mr Vegnesh said the 5kg bag was purchased from the Sheng Siong outlet at Block 739 Bedok Reservoir Road. 
"We were shocked to see a dead rat inside. My whole house is full of dead rat smell," he wrote.
In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, AVA said it has received feedback on the case and is investigating. 
"Food safety is a joint responsibility," said AVA. 
"While the authorities continue to be vigilant and work to ensure that the regulatory measures are in place and properly enforced, the food industry and consumers should play their part too," it added.  
On Monday, KNP Trading, which distributes House Brand rice, told Channel NewsAsia that this was an "isolated incident".
The company said it was assisting AVA with the investigations and was also conducting an internal investigation.
"We are shocked of this development and very concerned with the unpleasant experience that our customer has encountered," the company said in a statement.
"We wish to apologise to the customer, who we are trying to contact, and everyone else who (has) been affected by this."
According to the company, the bags of basmati rice are packed by its supplier in India. The supplier has since been given a notice to conduct investigations and submit the findings.
"Regardless, we take responsibility for our products," KNP Trading said.
The company also confirmed that it had begun the recall of House Brand Basmati 5kg with the batch number STHB – 16441​​​​​​​.
A Sheng Siong spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia on Monday that all House Brand basmati rice products have been immediately removed from the stores. 
"Our Bedok Reservoir Road 739A store was informed by the customer last Saturday afternoon of the incident ... We have conducted a refund for the customer and will work closely with AVA," the spokesperson added. 
Source: CNA/ad/zl/aa(hs/hm)

Companies Rush To Patent Wildlife Of The Philippines – OpEd

Shells of Conus magus. Photo Credit: Richard Parker, Wikipedia Commons
Description: Shells of Conus magus. Photo Credit: Richard Parker, Wikipedia CommonsThere is a silent but reckless “gold rush” in Asia. One where a handful of genomic companies and their pharma- ceutical partners are rushing to privatize the genes of plants, animals and humans to sell for profit.
The commodity they seek to exploit is not gold but biological information. The raw material they need is human DNA: that make up genes of human life, plant, and animal genes. They are the gene hunters and have invaded the Philippine shores.
Already, biopirates, skirting the loosely-crafted anti-biopiracy law in the Philippines and with the help of some Philippine scientists, have successfully acquired patents for a pain-killing snail, a cancer-curing tree and several vegetables and fruit that are remedies to diabetes.
The Philippine sea snail (Conus magus) has already been patented by Neurex, Inc. a US-based pharmaceutical company and has earned millions of dollars for the company. Neurex, and the University of Utah, have been isolating from the snail a toxin called SNX-111 which is a pain killer that is reported by scientists to be 1,000 times more powerful than morphine.
SNX-111 or Ziconitide was recently reported by Rosemarie Foster of Drug Infoline as having been issued a letter of approval by the US Food and Drug Administration on June 28 last year for treatment of chronic pain. The drug will be marketed by the company Elan Corporation.
The report added that Zoconitide is 100 to 1,000 times more potent than morphine, so potent to completely paralyze a fish within a matter of seconds. SNX 111 blocks critical openings in nerve cells, interrupting pain signals on their journey through the spinal cord to the brain. It is administered through a small tube directly into the spinal cord.
During the first year that the pain killer SNX-111 was marketed, it has earned Neurex more than $80 million. Neurex has entered into a marketing deal with Warner Lambert, one of the world’s major international pharmaceutical companies to further push the product. SNX-111 will be worth more when sold outside the US. Another medical company, the US-owned Medtronic which specializes in medicinal plants, has signed a contract with Neurex, to sell the pain killer SNX-111.
As a pain killer, it is important in hospitals, drugstores and most especially, to the growing number of battlefields worldwide. There are also reports that the toxin from the snail is being tested for insecticidal properties to fight insects pests that have developed resistance to most chemicals.
Neurex owns all three patents of the Philippine sea snail under US Patent numbers 5189,020, 5559,095 and lastly 5587,454 which is referred to the snail toxin treatment for victims of stroke.
Biopiracy is the exploration, extraction and screening of biological diversity and indigenous knowledge for commercial, genetic and bio- chemical purposes.
Philippine endemic plants have not been spared. “Ampalaya” or bitter gourd (Momordica charantia) is now privately-owned by the US National Institute of Health, the US Army and the New York University which have successfully gained the US patent numbers US 5484889, JP 6501089 and EP 553357, respectively, on the Vitamin A-rich vegetable.
Ampalaya, mixed with another Philippine vegetable “talong” or egg- plant (Solanum melongena) are traditional food that make up the Philippine delicacy “pinakbet”, an effective cure against diabetes.
Today, scientists from the US pharmaceutical company Cromak Research, Inc. in New Jersey has started raking in profits reaching to as high as $500 million from a anti-diabetic product extracted from the two vegetables. Diabetes, together with cancer and tuberculosis, was named recently by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a leading disease for this new century.
The diabetic remedy was granted the US patent number 5900240 for Cromak. It is taken as a dietary supplement. The importance of the diabetic drug is crucial not only to some 22 million Americans who are afflicted by the disease yearly, 200,000 of whom die yearly, but also to 170 million others in developing nations, epidemiologist Venkat Narayan of the Diabetes International Foundation said.
Talong and ampalaya are low-calorie traditional Philippine food which have contributed largely to the prevention of diabetes among Filipinos, according to diabetologists Dr. Julie C. Cabato and Dr. Marcelino Salango. Both lowers glucose level in blood thus lessen- ing possibility of diabetes especially for the aging and obese people as well as those who lead sedentary lifestyles, they added.
The piracy of biodiversity also threatens the Philippine yew tree (Taxus sumatrana) which has been reported by the government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as having aroused interest by a US university. A senior science research specialist of DENR said two scientists from the university were given a DENR permit to collect specimen of the tree in 1998 in the mossy montane forest of Mount Pulag, the country’s second highest mountain.
The scientists reported that the tree, found only in Mount Pulag, contains taxol, a cancer-curing chemical.
The biopiracy of plants and animals puts ownership of these valuable resources into the hands of the few companies which can control the storage, patenting, licensing, reproduction and sale. As it is, the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) in its publication “Issues and Trends in Biodiversity: Conserving Indigenous Knowledge”, 70 percent of the genetic diversity of the world’s 20 major food crops have been lost from farmers’ fields and the remaining 30 percent are controlled by food and pharmaceutical giants.
It further said that 68 percent of all crop seeds collected in devel- oping countries and 85 percent of all fetal populations of livestock breeds are stored in genebanks in industrialized countries or in international agricultural research centers.
In the Philippines alone, some 150 traditional rice varieties are stored at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and are being used to breed input intensive artificial varieties which are then sold back to the farmers for planting.
The piracy of biodiversity in the Philippines is made worse by the inadequate provisions as well as limited implementation of Executive Order 247 which provides policies on bioprospecting but says nothing on biopiracy. Biopriacy is done by multinational firms and govern- ments of developed countries which patent and map chromosomes of genetic resources without informing, consulting, acknowledging and duly compensating the resources.
The most well known biopiracy in the Philippines is the theft of an antibiotic extract from a soil in the province of Iloilo which became the world-known drug erythromycin. It was isolated by a Phil- ippine scientist Abelardo Aguilar who was then working with the Eli Lilly Co. and who was from the province of Iloilo. Upon Aguilar’s discovery of the new drug, he was promised by Eli Lilly a hefty share of the profits. Despite the millions of dollars earned by erythromy- cin and with the Philippine government’s intervention that Aguilar be recognized and be given a share, Aguilar and his relatives received nothing until recently.
Human tissues are even being owned by companies through human tissue piracy and tissue culture. Tissue culture is the reproduction of a microorganism, plant and animal cells in the laboratory. The culture of human cells is crucial for the biotechnology industry. When kept under proper conditions, “immortalized” human cells can produce in perpetuity and provide an infinite quantity of cells that contain the unique DNA of the original tissue donor or “tricked donor” as in the case of indigenous people who gave away a part of their lives without their knowing.
Last year, two Philippine nongovernment organizations, working on rural development and environmental concerns bared that some Ifugao tribes people were lured into sharing their blood to foreign scientists who posed as medical researchers. Nothing was heard from the scientists after they collected blood and hair samples from the ethnic peoples.
Followingly, the Baguio City-based United Nations (UN) accredited Indigenous Peoples International Center for Policy Research and Education or Tebtebba Foundation, reported that Aeta tribespeople displaced by the Mount Pinatubo eruption in the province of Zambales were tricked into giving blood samples to a foreign medical team who presented themselves as aid workers.
Vicky Tauli Corpuz who heads Tebtebba and sits as the chairperson of the UN Indigenous Peoples Volunteer Fund says “the biopiracy of indigenous peoples’plants and animals is a clear demonstration of disrespect for indigenous peoples rights; the attempts to gather human tissues from indigenous peoples clearly is an exploitation which should be condemned by governments.”
Mary Carling who once headed the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in the Philippines condemned the tissue piracy in strong terms saying “biopiracy is an extension of the imperialist policies of global corporations to whoose ultimate aim is to control the world’s resources”.
It should be recalled that in 1996, Hagahai tribes peoples in Papua New Guinea gave blood, tissue, and hair samples to American anthro- pologist Carol Jenkins in exchange for soap, candies and chocolates. Unknown to the Hagahais, their tissues were used to create an anti-leukemia drug. The tribe’s blood contained HTLV-1 which is resistant to the illness.
Many in the Philippines are unaware of the onslaught of biopirates on biodiversity, traditional knowledge and indigenous systems. One of these, the Philippine Indigenous Peoples Network say the UN Convention of Biodiversity (UNCBD) should impose a deter- ring punishment to any company or institute seeking a patent based on indigenous products and knowledge.
But this is easier said than done. In a country where poverty is prevalent and the administrative systems are not functioning well, some indigenous people are being forced to gamble their last remaining natural resources of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge for a decent meal.

Premier urges rice traders to focus on China and Vietnam
 Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday said that rice exporters should turn to China and Vietnam in an effort to diversify the export market away from the European Union. Speaking at the groundbreaking of a China-funded hospital in Tboung Khmum province, Mr Hun Sen said exporting more to China and Vietnam is key to the survival of the sector after the EU imposed tariffs on Cambodian rice and initiated the process to temporarily halt the country’s preferential trade status. Mr Hun Sen asked exporters to focus on filling the quota the Chinese government has for imports of Cambodian rice, which was recently expanded from 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes. “At the moment the price of rice has decreased and I have instructed the ministers of agriculture and commerce to focus on China and Vietnam, which will help lift the price of the commodity,” Mr Hun Sen said. He said China is a priority market for the Kingdom, with the government doing its utmost to expand export of agricultural products to the East Asian giant. Last year, the world’s second-largest economy was the country that bought the largest amount of Cambodian rice, importing 170,000 tonnes. Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), said diversifying Cambodia’s export markets is crucial. “We now face tariffs in the EU so we have to turn to other markets to restore investor confidence,” Mr Lak said. He said the government can help the private sector fill China’s quota by providing incentives that can reduce production costs. “The fact that the quota was expanded is a good sign, but in order to actually fill that quota we must reduce production costs so that we can be competitive in that market,” Mr Lak said. Last year, Cambodia exported 626,225 tonnes of rice to international markets, a drop of 1.5 percent compared to 2017. The largest market for Cambodian rice continues to be the EU, which imported almost 270,000 tonnes, equivalent to 42.98 percent of total exports. By individual country, after China, the largest buyers were France (90,000 tonnes), Malaysia (40,000 tonnes), Gabon (30,000 tonnes), and the Netherlands (26,000 tonnes). 
Author Name: https://www.khmertimeskh.com/583377/premier-urges-rice-traders-to-focus-on-china-and-vietnam/

Govt tells basmati exporters to stick to EU’s pesticide rules
NEW DELHI: The government has asked rice exporters to conform to the pesticides standards of the European Union for shipments to the bloc, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.  The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority asked exporters and laboratories to ensure that the rice samples are drawn in accordance with internationally accepted methods for the determination of pesticide residues.  India’s basmati exports to the EU had declined ar ..

‘Nigeria overtakes Egypt as largest rice producer in Africa’

Nigeria has overtaken Egypt as the largest rice producer in Africa, Director-General,Africa Rice Center, Benin Republic, Dr Harold Roy-Macauley has said .
Roy-Macauley, told The Nation that Nigeria is now the largest rice producer at 4 million tonnes a year.
Egypt was producing 4.3 tonnes annually but production has reduction by almost 40 percent this year, attributed to the Egyptian government decision to limit cultivated to preserve water resources.
Egypt rice cultivation requires about 1.8 billion metres of water in evaporation, transpiration and irrigation each year.
Africa produces an average of 14.6 million tonnes of rough rice annually.
He said there were efforts to increase overall rice production in Africa but expressed doubts that it will curb rice importation as population has increased across the continent.
He said consumers are looking for rice that safe and certified.
To meet expectations, he said his centre is ready to partner with Nigeria and other governments in Africa to train farmers, extension officers and exporters on best practice’s in cultivation and post- harvest care and to understand market requirements.
Roy- Macauley stressed the African rice value chain needs to be better integrated and be capable of competing with imported rice in terms of quality.
He added that the goal to achieving rice self- sufficiency is not just about on farm assistance but also involves introducing rice varieties that fit the diverse African agro-ecologies, improve irrigation facilities and disseminate rice growing techniques to farmers.

Funds for rice industry to hit P22B with rice import law
Description: Funds for rice industry to hit P32B with rice import lawMANILA, Philippines–Government funding for the country’s rice industry is seen to hit a record of P22 billion this year with the implementation of the Rice Import Liberalization Law, the agriculture chief said. In an interview with reporters on Monday, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that with funding from the national government along with the agency’s budget for the sector, “the rice industry will be given the biggest budget in history.


NFA to stop regulating rice trade as Rice Tariffication Law takes effect

Mar 04 2019 05:19 PM | Updated as of Mar 04 2019 11:07 PM
Description: https://sa.kapamilya.com/absnews/abscbnnews/media/2019/news/02/22/20150528-rice-thailand-aa.jpg
MANILA - (UPDATE) The National Food Authority (NFA) on Monday said that it will stop regulating international and domestic rice trade starting Tuesday, March 5, when the Rice Tariffication Law takes effect.
The agency said that it will also stop licensing and registering entities engaged in the grains business, collecting regulatory fees and enforcing rules and regulations in the grains business, among others.
“We will just be waiting for the release of the final IRR (implementing rules and regulations) before we fully shift our focus on buffer stocking for calamities and emergencies, as stated under the law, and on the eventual restructuring of our agency to suit its new functions,” said NFA officer-in-charge Tomas Escarez.
The IRR for the new law is expected to be released by the National Economic and Development Authority on Tuesday.
“March is the start of the summer crop harvest and we are ready to buy palay from our farmers,” Escarez said.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, meanwhile, said Filipino rice farmers can compete with imported rice by planting better varieties of the grain.
“That opens a new window of opportunity for Filipino farmers na kung ganun pala ang treatment ng consumers sa good quality rice varieties, then that could be the focus of Filipino farmers,” Piñol said.
He added that the local rice industry will receive a lot of funding this year and next year because the tariffs that will be collected from imported rice will be channeled back to Filipino rice farmers.
Farmers' groups have opposed the removal of import quotas on rice, saying flooding the local market with cheap imported rice will kill the Philippine rice industry.
The Alliance of Rice Farmers Against Rice Tariffication said the measure, meant to make rice more affordable in the Philippines, will lead to the "death of the rice industry."
"Pres. Duterte should review and junk this law and in its place, draft another measure that represents the interest of rice farmers and producers, consumers not only the interest of importers," the group said in a statement.
Economic managers had been batting for the removal of import quotas on rice as a key measure to control inflation, which hovered near 10-year highs last year.

Premier urges rice traders to focus on China and Vietnam

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times 

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday said that rice exporters should turn to China and Vietnam in an effort to diversify the export market away from the European Union.
Speaking at the groundbreaking of a China-funded hospital in Tboung Khmum province, Mr Hun Sen said exporting more to China and Vietnam is key to the survival of the sector after the EU imposed tariffs on Cambodian rice and initiated the process to temporarily halt the country’s preferential trade status.
Mr Hun Sen asked exporters to focus on filling the quota the Chinese government has for imports of Cambodian rice, which was recently expanded from 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes.
. .
“At the moment the price of rice has decreased and I have instructed the ministers of agriculture and commerce to focus on China and Vietnam, which will help lift the price of the commodity,” Mr Hun Sen said.
He said China is a priority market for the Kingdom, with the government doing its utmost to expand export of agricultural products to the East Asian giant.
Last year, the world’s second-largest economy was the country that bought the largest amount of Cambodian rice, importing 170,000 tonnes.
Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), said diversifying Cambodia’s export markets is crucial.
“We now face tariffs in the EU so we have to turn to other markets to restore investor confidence,” Mr Lak said.
. .
He said the government can help the private sector fill China’s quota by providing incentives that can reduce production costs.
“The fact that the quota was expanded is a good sign, but in order to actually fill that quota we must reduce production costs so that we can be competitive in that market,” Mr Lak said.
Last year, Cambodia exported 626,225 tonnes of rice to international markets, a drop of 1.5 percent compared to 2017.
The largest market for Cambodian rice continues to be the EU, which imported almost 270,000 tonnes, equivalent to 42.98 percent of total exports.
By individual country, after China, the largest buyers were France (90,000 tonnes), Malaysia (40,000 tonnes), Gabon (30,000 tonnes), and the Netherlands (26,000 tonnes).
. .