THE Philippines has a deep history with agriculture despite being an archipelago. From rice, to corn, to vegetable farming, each region in the country has farmers which toil the fields day in and day out. And while advances in research in biotechnology can play a big role in the development of the Philippines' agriculture, the scientific language usually being used to share information has become an obstacle to disseminating knowledge to the mainstream.
The Jose G. Burgos Jr. Awards hopes to surmount that obstacle by lauding the journalists who were able to craft stories of interest and information. First launched in 2005, the awards have become an annual event, held during the National Biotech Week.
"Joe Burgos was a journalist and a farmer, living a difficult life of a farmer in the last 16 years of his life. He knew that print media could be a means to improve the lives of farmers. The award was created to encourage news writers to write on biotechnology. Aside from helping push the boundaries of scientific inquiries, it was his hope that technology and research results written in popular language would also contribute to the income of farmers," Dr. Editha Burgos, the widow of Jose Burgos shared.
A total of 9 awards were given this year for 3 categories. For the institutional category, both the Manila Times and Interaksyon.com tied for third place. The Philippine Star took second place while Business Mirror once again took first place.
The materials which were screened for the competition were articles that were published both in print and online from August 2015 to July 2016 with the monitoring being done by Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, Biotechnology Information Center. (SEARCA BIC)
For the new articles category, Maricar Cinco of the Philippine Daily Inquirer took third place with her article on the development of cheaper and healthier animal feeds based on copra done by the National Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.
Meanwhile, Diego Mora nabbed second place with his piece on the aid given by Dutch scientists to the National Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology at the University of the Philippines to secure the institute's collection of microorganisms and genetic material which are instrumental for the research and development of strains of food crops and improving soil conditions for arable land.
Mary Grace Padin, who was writing for Business Mirror when her article came out, took the first place. Her article talked about the increased production and income of farmers in the country since the planting of genetically-modified corn.
In the features article category, Henrylito D. Tacio of EDGE Davao took third place with his piece on golden rice and how it could help address Vitamin A deficiency in Filipinos. Manila Standard's Rey S. Eñano placed second with his article on the backlash the academe is facing following the Supreme Court's decision to halt field testing on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).
James Konstantin Galvez of the Manila Times took first place with his article detailing the local corn growers' appeal to the government for the immediate signing of the new rules regarding the country's use and propagation of GMOs in time for the planting season.
For the news category, articles were judged on 4 areas: relevance, 25 percent; substance, 25 percent; depth and investigative detail, 25 percent; and style, 25 percent. Meanwhile, for the feature category the element of human interest was considered during the screening and judging of articles. Relevance on biotechnology was given 20 percent; substance, 40 percent; and cohesiveness and writing quality, 40 percent.