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The Philippines has become the first nation in Asia to approve the cultivation of a genetically modified food crop, Bacillus thuringiensis maize.

Other Asian nations such as China, Indonesia and India, presently grow genetically modified cotton, but have not yet approved the planting of GM food crops, although a wide range of such crops are currently under development.

The decision was quickly denounced by Greenpeace, accused the Filipino government of bowing to pressure from US biotech companies and the US Department of Agriculture. "[There is] mounting evidence of detrimental effects that genetically engineered crops pose to the environment, the Philippine economy, farmer rights and consumer rights," it said in a statement.

But Juan Ferreira, Philippines country director of Monsanto, the biotechnology company that developed the approved strain of GM maize, described the decision as “good news for Filipino growers who now have an opportunity to share in the economic and environmental benefits of [GM] corn".

Ferreira adds: "Where it's grown commercially, this product has a demonstrated ability to improve both yields and quality of grain which, in turn, increases growers' incomes."

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Photo credit: Monsanto

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