Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr, PhilRice executive director, pushed for green and smart farming to transform the current food system during the 25th National Rice Research and Development Conference held in Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, Sept. 4-6.
Green initiatives aim to reduce external input, particularly energy, while smart initiatives are knowledge-intensive and labor-reducing technologies.
In his opening address, Rasco said the present food system needs changes as food miles, or the distance that a food travels from the farm to the consumers’ plate, are getting farther.
“Before, we used only to import rice from Thailand and Vietnam, now, we get from India. [Let’s also consider] the hamburger sandwich. The beef comes from Argentina, bread from Australia, cheese from the New Zealand, and tomato paste from California. Our food sources are getting farther,” he said.
A transformation is also needed with “Filipinos losing control over what [they] eat and we are losing farming and associated supply such as seeds and agricultural inputs as a source of income.”
New dietary guidelines recommend that fruits and vegetables occupy half of our plates and about ¼ by grains. However, half of the typical Filipino plate contains rice despite recommendations to eat more fruits and vegetables.
In terms of income, Rasco said farmers are losing to imported agricultural products.
“To transform the food system, we need to transform the energy and information systems that nurture it. We need to be green and smart – a system that is diverse and sustainable,” he said.
With a green and smart technology system, Rasco said the food system, especially on rice, localized sufficiency of food stapes would be possible.
“Green and smart is more than a slogan. It is a vision, a crusade, an agenda, and a strategy. Ultimately, it will become an action plan that hopefully we will commit to [work on],” he said.
As part of its green and smart initiatives, PhilRice crafted its Energy in Rice Farming Program and will soon implement the Philippine Rice Academy, an advanced research and training academy focused on promoting modern technologies.