Saturday, February 25, 2017

Health Hazards of Genetically Modified Organisms (RF Quijano) Pt. 1

I recently bought a book from my agriculture professor, Dr. Pamela Fernandez, entitled, Local Seed Systems for Genetic Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture Sourcebook. I went over the chapters and found some really interesting topics. Beginning today, I will be posting articles from the book that I find useful for you and me as graduate students. Today's post will feature the first part of the paper of Dr. Romeo F. Quijano, an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology in UP Manila. According to the book, he prepared this paper entitled, Health Hazards of Genetically Modified Organisms, for the seed congress that was held in Lahug, Cebu City in April 2001. Tell me what you think and please share your opinions on the subject matter.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), foods and products pose serious threats to human health and the environment. They carry substances or chemicals that have various toxic effects. Novel proteins may be produced that may cause allergies and other forms of hypersensitivity reactions. They carry virus vectors that can create, transform, or enhance infectious agents. They usually carry antibiotic resistance genes that can transfer and spread to various pathogenic organisms and render many life saving antibiotics useless. Genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-tolerant crops are laced with high levels of pesticide residues that may disrupt endocrine function, destroy the immune system, and cause, directly or indirectly, various kinds of diseases, including cancer.

There are already many documented examples (by genetic engineering scientists) of unexpected production of toxic substances due to genetic engineering:

  • In the late 1980's, a new GMO was used to produce L-tryptophan, a nutrient supplement. Inadvertently, a toxic metabolite was also produced. Within a period of months, thousands of people who had taken the new supplement began to suffer from eosinophilia myagia syndrome, a new disease characterized by hematologic, neurologic, and other abnormalities. At least, 1,500 people were permanently disabled and 37 died. Genetic engineering proponents claim that the purification process, not the genetic engineering technology, caused the problem. But while no definitive conclusions can be made (the company involved destroyed all the GMOs used that could have provided the definitive answer), there are enough circumstantial and othe evidence that point to genetic engineering as the culprit.
  • In 1995, a scientific report in the Journal of Food Science and Technology showed that when yeast was genetically modified to achieve a higher fermentation efficacy, there was an unexpected tremendous increase in the production of a toxic metabolite called glyoxal.
  • Similarly, it was reported in Nature Biotechnology in May 1996 that when tobacco was genetically engineered, a toxic chemical called octadecatetraenoic acid, which does not exist in the natural tobacco plant was produced. Other untoward incidents are likely to occur if GMOs are allowed to proliferate.

FERNANDEZ, P.G., A.L. AQUINO, L.E.P. de GUZMAN, M.F.O. MERCADO (Eds.). 2002. Local seed systems for genetic conservation and sustainable agriculture sourcebook. University of the Philippine Los Banos - College of Agriculture. Laguna, Philippines

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Be part of history and join our Permaculture research team!

Brief overview
The practice of permaculture in the Philippines is spreading fast via tightly-knit social networks on social media and yet it is largely ignored by mainstream culture and the academe as a logical solution to food security and climate change. To generate new data on this dynamic ecological design framework, the study will attempt to conduct a nationwide census of trained and self-proclaimed permaculture designers.  

Phase 1: Identifying and mapping the practitioners (off-site)
Phase 2: Documentation and analysis of methods and practices of permaculture sites (on-site)
Phase 3: Theory and framework-building and assessment tools/methodology development

2017 to 2019

3 journal articles
1 book
1 video documentary

We need people knowledgeable in these fields:
Computer Science/Network Science
GIS Mapping
Photography and Videography/Film/Drone
Sociology/Anthropology/Community Dev’t
Agricultural Engineering/Green Architecture
Development Communication
Environmental Science/Environmental Management
Agriculturalist/Organic Farmer/Permaculture Designer/Extension Workers
Writers and Editors
Creative people

If you are interested, please email us at

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Research Forum: Creating Virtual Corridors (Unofficial Video)

Full Text:

Making Environmental Issues Personal

When I got involved in UP Open University’s organic agriculture course in 2012, environmental issues became more tangible to me, particularly the impact of agriculture on the environment. From a distant concern beyond my personal space, the environment was personified and given a face that I can relate to and care about. Now I can contribute, influence, and have genuine concern for our environment because organic agriculture made it possible for me to understand where I belong in the context of the natural world. 

As I probed deeper in agriculture, the never-ending issue concerning the reconciliation of economics and the environment was always brought up. Bringing profit-making and environmental care in the same conversation during my masteral studies has always been a challenge ever since I became aware of and involved in matters concerning the environment. Though no one I met at school disagreed with the idea of reconciling the two, the challenge still remained in the execution of the values that we uphold in the real world.

Just last month, I finished reading a book I purchased at Mt. Cloud Bookstore in Baguio entitled, “The State of the Philippine Environment Third Edition 2006” by the IBON Databank and Research Center. At first I hesitated to buy it because it was published ten years ago. But I was also curious if the issues back then are still relevant in 2016. I was right. We still live in the same world and it’s getting worse. It was like reading a depressing novel. So what now?

The Media Shapes Our Values

I observed that the masses and mainstream media view contemporary environmental issues as external concerns that exist apart from our everyday reality or daily routine. What goes on in the natural world is still very disconnected from what we do at school or in the office. In other words, we divide our realities into spheres: the anthroposphere and the ecosphere. There is no merging of these two realities just yet. If there is, it only exists in the psyche of a small number of people. We view as relevant those issues that have direct consequences in our lives, like public safety or job security.

Climate change and loss of biodiversity just seem too daunting of a task for us to get involved in. Sadly, our entire economy and existence depends on the state of our environment and the natural world—a concept that most people, educated people included, find mind-boggling. We consume what is being fed to us. That is why mainstream media has an important role in shaping our values and attitudes toward the environment.  Unless directly affected by environmental tragedies (i.e. mining communities, coastal towns) most of us will maintain the status quo and proceed with daily life with our fingers crossed.

It’s the Government’s Responsibility!

While I don’t have any problems with the development and implementation of government policies on the environment, I have an issue with people depending on policies to aid their positive action. In my experience, I have talked to many people (mostly aspiring farmers) who avoid organic agriculture because of the strict certification requirements. In my opinion, this should not hinder us from practicing what is ecologically sound and just. We can still practice organic agriculture in our backyards and small farms with or without any paperwork. Only those big farms who export their produce should be keen on certification to safeguard the quality of our local products in other countries. Though policies and laws can guide our actions, the lack thereof shouldn’t be an excuse for us to act positively and responsibly.

Developing My Ecological Consciousness

Seeing the conventional farming systems in Benguet and Mt. Province during my time as a farmer support manager for an organic agri-social enterprise that I used to work for, I realized how aggressive the transnational chemical and agri-companies were in making a profit -- stripping entire mountains for monoculture then sprinkling synthetic fertilizer and drenching the slopes with chemical pesticides. I saw one slope in particular where only broccoli was planted (this is prone to erosion and nutrient depletion) The farmers had been aware of the negative consequences in their environment but are unable to break away from their debts from these transnational companies.   

There was a mini-series in the History Channel called, “The Men Who Built America.” It narrated the lives of five of America’s kings of industrialization (Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, and Ford) and how they changed the country’s landscape in just 30 years. I admired their relentlessness and their drive to make the world a “better place.” They believed in the impossible and operated on the idea of unlimited natural resources. Industrialization, during that period, set the stage for the global culture that we know today. We now feel the destructive effects of this rapid change. In today’s context, with scientific knowledge being inversely proportional to natural resources, I hope that environmental scientists and advocates would have the same relentlessness to change their landscapes for the better. I hope we can match the industrialists’ passion by coming up with innovations that can make our industrial systems more inefficient in terms of source to sink product life cycles to reduce pollution.  

How can I impact the landscape now? This is a question that I ask myself every day. After class, I go to our organic demo farm inside the campus and experiment on permaculture design methods and organic agriculture technologies in our “more-than-we-can-handle” 3000 square meter patch of land.  It is there where I try to do my part in contributing to my community’s food security.

I read in one of our modules in UPOU that small-scale solutions are trendy, but it takes macro-scale policy formation to really impact the environment. This is true, but I still prefer to view environmental issues as personal issues that I can address on a daily basis.   

Sunday, July 31, 2016

FMDS-UPOU Recognition Day 2016 Speech

Jabez Joshua Flores, MENRM Student and Chancellor's List Awardee, giving his testimonial to the FMDS graduating class of 2015-2016#FMDSClass2016 Photo by Faculty of Management and Development Studies (FMDS) Facebook Page

Education should not separate us apart from society. It should not breed elitism. Education is not about competition. Instead, education should breed in us compassion toward others having understood that we rely on each other to sustain our existence. Use education as an opportunity for application, as a platform for action. Be educated to develop compassion, educate to share compassion. 

I wrote that quote a few years ago when I was trying to make a vision statement to remind myself why I was studying in the first place. 

I started my journey at UPOU back in 2011. Not knowing exactly how a virtual campus actually works, I took Personal Entrepreneurial Development as my introductory course to the world of virtual learning in 2011. I was motivated and I got hooked. I took New Enterprise Planning the next semester and then Organic Agriculture until the end of 2012. Surprisingly, I adapted and excelled in the ODEL format and the non-formal courses lit a fire in me that eventually led to my application for a masters’ degree in the second semester of 2012. 

Throughout my academic career, I was an average student involved in a lot of extracurricular activities like music and sports. I never received a medal or recognition in high school or college. I was hardworking and persistent but I didn’t excel in taking exams.  What was different though was my constant desire to make sense of what I was learning. I wanted the lessons to be translated into action. 

For three and a half years under the MENRM program, I used my education as a platform for action. I’m very thankful to all my teachers, instructors, professors, and admin staff who were very supportive of my ideas, dreams, and research. I never felt pressure or creative constraint during my time here as a student. 

As I learned more (and also rewarded with good grades) there is the strong temptation to feel above better than the rest, than the common person, or to the person across the street. I always have to remind myself to be in a position of humility and accept that everyone in this world can contribute to the greater good. 

Am I studying for myself? To get good grades? To have a masters’ degree? No, no and no. The more I learn, the closer I get to the issues at hand. It’s the moment when our education becomes a personal mission rather than a distant goal that needs to be finished. 

I thank FMDS and UPOU not just for developing my mind, but for shaping my heart to lead a life of service for our people, the environment, and the country.

Be educated to develop compassion, educate to share compassion. 

Thank you and congratulations to all the graduates. God bless!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Paulo's Return to Elbi and GFFA Updates

After 5 months, Paulo finally came back from the UK and started working immediately at the Galaxy Farm Farm Away (GFFA). This photo was taken during a Nu Wave Farmers morning picnic at the farm. Also visiting from Makati is Maya who gave us cool new shirts! Dan and Tin-Tin also joined us for breakfast. (Photo selfie by Paulo)
Visiting PhD student, Shun-nan, from UC Santa Cruz, volunteered during one of our afternoon farming sessions at GFFA. He's currently back in the States and will come back next year to do his research in UPLB. See you soon! (Photo by Shun-nan)
Dan, Paulo and I raising our first harvest of eggplant like a prized trophy! (Photo by Shun-nan)
Here's a close up photo of the eggplant we harvested from Plot # 2, Nadine's plot. We got the seedlings from our friend, Mary Jane, from the UPOU Farmers' Market. (Instagram @thebeigetable)
Here's Plot # 1, my own 1x3 plot experiment. I put wooden pallet sidings to control soil erosion. Right now I have eggplant, chili, marigold, kale, camote tops, peppermint, radish, mustasa, and kangkong growing inside the bed. I trying out a no-till method where I can create a very dense, mini-ecosystem with a microclimate within the plot. So just chop and drop, dump and leave. Let's see how it goes. (Instagram: @thebeigetable)
First harvest: two pieces of eggplant from Plot # 2 were given to my girlfriend, Caty. (photo by Shun-nan)
Second harvest: one eggplant from Plot # 1 donated to NWF member, Tin-Tin.
Third harvest: one eggplant from Plot # 2 donated to Kuya Ome of NWF.
We're just happy to be giving away eggplants to our friends right now. And I'm glad that Paulo is back and Dan is regularly helping in the farm. But I still hope that more students would join the Nu Wave Farmers this semester. Sometimes, especially when I'm alone working in the farm, I feel sad that people don't see the value of growing food. It's not everyday that we get the opportunity to have a vacant lot where we can plant fruits and vegetables. GFFA is truly a blessing.

Two greenhouses with  rain collectors were installed a few weeks ago and we have some new tools donated by our friends. Our adviser, Doc Bes, is also working hard to make sure that the farm will be up and running this year.

I really hope more students would volunteer this year.