Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today said that biotechnology is key to addressing critical environmental issues facing the country, particularly in overcoming challenges in global warming like droughts, food security and mitigation of impacts from natural disasters.

Paje made the remark as he calls on the public, particularly the teachers and students, to actively participate in the celebration of the 7th National Biotechnology Week slated on Nov. 21-26, 2011 at the Social Hall of the DENR in Visayas Ave., Diliman, Quezon City.

Expected to grace the event includes Senator Edgardo Angara, senate committee chair on science and technology, who will give the keynote speech, and key officials of the various agency-members of the National Biotechnology Committee, namely, Department of Health, which serves as co-chair for this year’s celebration; Department of Agriculture; Department of Science and Technology; Department of Interior and Local Government; Department of Trade and Industry; Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education.

This year’s celebration is anchored on the theme: “Bioteknolohiya para sa Kalikasan, Kalusugan, Kagandahan, Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran, OK ang 5K sa Biotech: Suportahan at Tangkilikin Natin!”

Paje said that there is an immense potential of biotechnology in protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment. “The potential benefits of biotechnology in environmental management could not be overemphasized,” Paje said, stressing that biotechnology can greatly help improve the water quality of rivers and other waterways as well as enhance the reforestation of the country’s denuded forestlands.

Paje noted that while the benefits of the safe use of biotechnology in other sectors, particularly in agriculture and medicine, have been increasingly recognized by the government, he also acknowledged the many issues confronting biotechnology, particularly the alleged impact of genetically-modified organisms or GMOs on the people’s health, animals and the environment.

Paje stressed that based on Executive Order 514 which established the National Biosafety Framework and Strengthening the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines, the DENR is mandated to ensure that environmental assessments are carried out and impacts identified in the release of genetically-modified organisms or GMOs in the field.

“The DENR will continue to support the implementation of EO 514 as it is compliant to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety under the Convention on Biological Diversity that addresses safe transfer, handling and use of GMOs,” Paje said.

He also said that the DENR will be taking the lead in evaluating and monitoring GMOs intended for bioremediation and improvement of forest and wildlife genetic resources.

Bioremediation refers to the use of microorganisms, fungi, green plants or their enzymes to return the natural environment altered by contaminants to its original condition.