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Government Scientists Won't Stop Field-Testing of BT EggplantHelen Flores Special to Salem-News.com
Philippines- the battle over GMO food.
(MANILA, Philippines PhilStar) - Government scientists will continue field testing a genetically modified eggplant despite the Supreme Court’s (SC) issuance of a writ of kalikasan against its commercial production. Speaking to reporters yesterday, officials from the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and Department of Agriculture (DA) insisted the eggplant is safe for human consumption.
Reynaldo Ebora, UPLB spokesman and National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) director, said the SC has not issued a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) to stop the field tests of Bt eggplant at UPLB in cooperation with other state universities.
“We will continue with our experiments as we are confident that we did not violate any rules,” he said.
NAST president Emil Javier said the health issues that Greenpeace had raised on Bt corn have no scientific basis.
“International regulatory bodies have dismissed these studies showing that genetically modified crops are harmful to humans,” he said.
Filipino scientists are developing fruit and shoot-resistant eggplant. The fruit and shoot borer (FSB) is the most destructive insect pest of eggplant in the Philippines and other Asian countries.
In a resolution last May 2, the SC partially granted the petition of Greenpeace seeking to stop field testing in several provinces of Bt eggplant.
The SC ordered respondents Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bureau of Plant Industry and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority of the DA, UPLB Foundation, Inc., UP Mindanao Foundation, Inc. and International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications-Southeast Asia Center to answer the petition within 10 days from receipt of notice.
In a petition last April 26, Greenpeace said the new crop could endanger consumers as it was found to cause damage to internal organs.
With its built-in insect-resistance gene, Bt eggplant can also create aggressive weeds that may wreak havoc on local agriculture and natural habitats, Greenpeace said.
Joining Greenpeace in seeking relief from the SC were former senator Orlando Mercado, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn and other concerned representatives of various sectors.
Results of 90-day laboratory tests of proponents of genetically modified organisms on mice fed with the new Bt eggplant showed signs of toxicity in the liver and kidneys of the test subjects, the petitioners said.
Studies showed that Bt, a spore-forming bacterium, produces crystal proteins (Cry proteins) toxic to many species of insects.
Eggplant is the leading vegetable crop in the country in terms of area and volume of production, she added.
Hautea said around 20,000 to 21,000 hectares of land in the Philippines are planted with eggplant.
“Eggplant is the highest consumed vegetable in the country because it is very affordable,” she said.
Hautea said the Bt eggplant will increase the yield of small-scale farmers by 10 percent and prevent them from using insecticides.
“Eggplant yield losses from 51 percent to 73 percent because of FSB have been reported in the country,” she said.
First published by The Philippine Star
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