Learning about biotechnology can be fun and exciting. This was demonstrated in the recent seminar held at SM Dasmariñas Event Center, Cavite as part of the celebration of the National Biotechnology Week 2015 spearheaded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
The seminar, entitled “Understanding Biotechnology Seminar-Workshop for High School and Elementary Students,” featured activities that engaged the students from Maquiling School, Incorporated, Christian School International, University of the Philippines Rural High School, De La Salle Lipa, Cavite State University, and B. N. Calara Elementary and High School.
In one of the group activities led by Prof. Carlo Miguel Sandoval of University of the Philippines-Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB), the students were able to extract DNA of a banana using common household chemicals such as alcohol, dishwashing liquid, and salt. Another activity enjoyed by the participants was creating paper models of the human DNA, which carries all the information about how a living thing will look and function.
Prof. Sandoval said that making biotechnology comprehensible to young Filipinos is “very important because we are in a period where biotech is already booming and we have a lot of technology that we don’t know are biotech. It is important to communicate [biotech] effectively, educate, and inform [Filipinos] even at a very young age so they can understand [biotech] especially nowadays that there are a lot of issues against products of modern biotechnology and most of them are rooted on miscommunication or misunderstanding.”
Prof. Sandoval added that he sees a biotech-driven Philippines in the future especially with the very strong support of the government. “They are providing funds for us not only for research but also for activities such as biotech information, education, and communication,” he stated.
Apart from the group activities, there were also discussions on Principles and Applications of Biotechnology facilitated by Dr. Orlex Yllano of the Adventist University of the Philippines and Food and Environmental Safety of GMOs led by Dr. Roberta N. Garcia of UPLB-IPB.
Dr. Yllano emphasized in his lecture that he made his presentation very basic and simple to cater to the comprehension level of the elementary students present in the event.
Aside from helping students understand biotechnology, Dr. Yllano hopes that the seminar-workshop would encourage students to choose biotechnology as their career path. “Biotechnology is a relatively new area that needs promoting so that students would appreciate it and have careers related to it.”
As for the future of biotechnology in the Philippines, Dr. Yllano is positive that it will thrive. “If you analyze the number of students in the University of the Philippines taking up biotechnology, you will see that the number is increasing,” he said.
The seminar-workshop was organized by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) of DOST, Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture-Biotechnology Information Center, and the UPLB-IPB. It was created based on the book written by NAST Academician Dr. Evelyn Mae Mendoza titled “Understanding Biotechnology.”
Students carefully perform extraction of banana DNA using household chemicals
Dr. Roberta N. Garcia discusses the applications of biotechnology as an introduction to her lecture on the Food and Environmental Safety of GMOs.