MANILA, AUGUST 26, 2009 (PHILIPPINE STAR) By Helen Flores - Sixteen state colleges and universities nationwide will soon include biotechnology in their existing curriculum in a bid to popularize the subject and eventually help the country benefit from the relatively new field.

The University of the Philippines’ National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB), in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and the Commission on Higher Education, has developed the program instituting a General Education (GE) Biotechnology Course in the curriculum of selected state colleges and Universities (SCUs)

Dr. Cynthia Hedreyda, NIMBB director, said that while there is limitless information on biotechnology, there is not enough popular awareness of the subject.

Biotechnology is defined as “the use of living organisms, especially microorganisms, in industrial, agricultural, medical and other technological applications.”

She said biotechnology education in the country is disseminated primarily through workshops and symposia conducted by scientists, people from the academe, government agencies like the DA and the Department of Science and Technology.

“These attempts, are, however, not sufficient to make knowledge of benefits derived from products of the new technology, particularly the agricultural products of modern biotechnology, widespread,” she said.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the introduction of the biotechnology course is “one of the many initiatives that we are undertaking to vigorously promote the safe and responsible use of biotechnology is its inclusion in the college curriculum, initially in 16 selected state colleges and universities.

He said, “Our aim is to equip Filipino teachers, students and other interested individuals with the basic knowledge, and enable them to make informed decisions on biotechnology products and latest breakthroughs and developments, and related issues on human health and the environment, and ethical concerns.”

“Further, through this initiative we hope to encourage more Filipino youth to pursue a career in the field of biotechnology, either as researchers and scientists or entrepreneurs,” he added.

The Cavite State University and University of Southern Mindanao have begun offering three units of the biotechnology course to their students.

Segfredo Serrano, DA undersecretary for policy and planning, said the integration of the biotechnology course in the college curriculum “will help transform biotechnology education into something we can benefit more from.”

Biotechnology courses cover a variety of topics from the history of traditional and modern biotechnology, the use of biotechnology for health, environment and industry, legal battles, and ethical issues.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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