Fiber authority urges halt to crossbreeding of abaca

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THE Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) said it wants to put stop to the “failed” crossbreeding of abaca with pacol, a wild banana that researchers have claimed improves hybridized abaca’s resistance to disease.

PhilFIDA said the organization conducting crossbreeding operations are University of the Philippines Los Baños Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB) and the Department of Science and Technology — Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (DoST-PCAARRD).

PhilFIDA said these organizations should focus on developing true-to-type abaca varieties.

“The research project on crossbreeding pacol with abaca was a dismal failure from the very beginning but they keep deceiving the public by posting various pronouncements on the Internet that it is high-yielding and disease-resistant though their research is still at an early stage,” PhilFIDA Executive Director Kennedy T. Costales said in a social media post on Sunday.

In 2013, DoST said that PCAARRD, along with UPLB-IPB and the Department of Agriculture (DA) developed a disease-free abaca-pacol hybrid.

“We told them last year at the DoST-PCAARRD office in UPLB-IPB to stop their activities but instead focus on crossbreeding a true-to-type abaca variety with another true-to-type variety, he said, adding that such activities have millions of pesos in funding.

“In my opinion, when you crossbreed pacol and abaca, it’s no longer a ‘hybrid.’ Crossbreeding one species with another (musa balbisiana and musa textilis) (is just like) crossbreeding a dog and a cat and expect a horse to come out of it. Crossbreeding should be between the same species and should not create a new plant specie.”

Antonio G. Lalusin, a project leader from UPLB-IBP, said in 2013 that conventional breeding of abaca takes about 10 years, whereas the groups were able to develop a disease-resistant abaca variety in about five years using modern genetic technology.

The groups aim to mass produce the fiber in the next few years, particularly in Bicol, where pacol is endemic. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio