Sustainable Food Production highlighted at ICFAS 2017
“The Philippine poverty level has remained the same over the last 10 years while that of our Asian neighbours has gone down.”
This was the disturbing observation of Dr. William G. Padolina during his keynote address in the 3rd International Conference on Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (ICFAS) on August 30, 2017 at Hotel Del Rio, Iloilo City. Padoilina based his observation from a compiled NSO data and ASEAN Statistical Report.
With the ICFAS 2017 theme, “Ridge to Reef: Strengthening Systems for Sustainable Food Production,” Padolina’s message couldn’t be more appropriate and fitting.
Padolina said that FAO (Food and Agriculture Organizations) by the United Nations defines food security as existing when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
By this standard, the Philippines lacks food security, compounded by the fact that as a developing country, it is also being subjected to external stresses such as climate change, poor harvests, ballooning population and population living in vulnerable areas.
Hence, he stressed the importance of sustainable development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future.
“Each generation should leave at least as large a productive base for its successor as it inherited from its predecessor,” he pointed out.
The former DOST Secretary also shared a 2016 data that show that the Philippine economy is weak in agriculture but is dominantly service-oriented. For a rice-eating country, agriculture contributes a mere 9% in the economy while industry is 30.85% and the service sector is 59.5%.
“To produce from nature is to change nature” says Padlina (quoting from Warner et al., 1996). The Philippines, he said, will have a rapid agricultural expansion in the next 50 years which will drive environmental change such the conversion of one billion hectares for agricultural uses and increase in the use of pesticide.
The expected impact would be overabundance of nutrients in the freshwater and marine ecosystems (resulting to algae bloom), loss of biodiversity, outbreaks of nuisance species, shift in structure of food chains, impairment of fisheries, and accumulation of greenhouse gases.
Padolina turned to science when it comes to food sustainability. He said that we should look into the earth’s ability to absorb waste and regenerate itself. He however, warns that there are potentially irreversible changes. He said that agricultural sustainability should be persistent and resilient.
“If there is no new knowledge, there is no new wealth. As a developing country, you can lower inflation, reduce corruption, cut your budget, privatize, and still not get rich because you are not generating knowledge,” Padolina said (quote from Enriques, 2001) at the end of his keynote address.
ICFAS was organized by UP Visayas through the School of Technology and drew scientists from Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, and Taiwan as well as from various part of the Philippines.