P240-M Plant to Bring In More Hybrid Corn Seeds

From: GMA News

A multinational company will build a P240-million plant to ramp up its production of hybrid corn seeds— a technology credited to boost crop yield but frowned upon by others for jeopardizing farmers’ welfare.

The Syngenta Philippines Inc. plant to be located in Binalonan, Pangasinan will sell hybrid seeds to local farmers and ship out a portion of its annual produce to neighboring countries in Asia, said Syngenta head for seeds Recher Ondap.

Hybrid seeds are the product of artificial breeding of two or more plants to come up with a variety with intended characteristics. “Syngenta ensures that farmers get seeds that are newly harvested, have excellent germination potential, and are well suited to local conditions,” Ondap said.

The Department of Agriculture has promoted the use of hybrid corn seeds, as well as other hybrid and genetically modified varieties, to increase crop yields.

An officer of a farmer’s welfare group, however, said that high-yield hybrid seeds come at the expense of farmers, who can only purchase the seeds from the companies that produce these.

Jean Lugasip, policy officer of the Southeast Asia Initiative for Community Empowerment (Searice), noted in an interview with GMANews.TV that farmers can use a batch of hybrid seeds, in effect, only once. Otherwise, undesirable traits of the hybrid crop — that do not manifest themselves in the first batch — may show up.

Farmers then will have to buy brand new batches of hybrid seeds every time they plant, Lugasip explained. She said the seed companies hold the patent for each of their hybrid seeds, which are priced higher than local varieties.

“Ang isyu namin sa hybrid seeds ay sino ang nag-o-own ng seeds na ito, at ang dependence ng farmers sa seed companies (Our issue with hybrid seeds concerns who own the seeds, and the dependence of farmers on seed companies),” Lugasip said.

Ondap meanwhile said the Syngenta processing plant would create jobs for about 150 people in Binalonan and nearby towns. He said the plant would also help improve the income of thousands of farmers in Pangasinan as they supply corn for processing.

Syngenta will buy their corn at a competitive fixed price. “Our new plant will contribute positively to the continued development of the local economy and surrounding community,” Ondap added.

Syngenta in the Philippines has been producing and distributing hybrid corn seeds since 2001.



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