Filipino scientists appeal for lifting of ban on Bt eggplant field tests

By Jade Dela Cruz Miguel

MANILA, Nov 26 (PNA) — Filipino scientists have called on the government to immediately lift the ban on field tests on genetically modified organism (GMO) eggplant or Bt eggplant they deem to have adversely affected science research.

The Filipino scientists made the call following a recent decision issued by the Court of Appeals (CA) banning field tests on GMO eggplant or Bt eggplant.

Science experts say that due to the ban on field testing, there is a five to 10 years delay in enjoying the benefits of food-safe, environment-safe Bt eggplant release.

“We hope research will be allowed so that government’s investment won’t be wasted. The (CA) ruling discourages our future generation of researchers to do research. Instead of getting the benefit of the research, the result is now delayed by five to 10 years,” said National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Director Reynaldo V. Ebora.

Meanwhile, Domingo Angeles, Dean of the College of Agriculture-University of the Philippines Los Banos (CA-UPLB), said that the ban puts a toll on the research being conducted by the university.

“The role of the university is to conduct research. The faculty who are in research generate new knowledge according to needs of the country. We want to give technology options to our farmers. Do farmers like it or not? If we are stopped in our duty in the university, that will be an affront to our own duty and academic freedom,” said Angeles.

Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, Natural Resources Research and Development Jocelyn E. Eusebio added that the situation becomes even worse as our Filipino scientists abroad are being discouraged to go back to the country due to lack of state-of-the-art laboratory and research facilities in the country which they need to pursue their research.

These Filipino scientists along with their contemporaries are hoping that Greenpeace members who were said to have uprooted or destroyed the Bt eggplant trial crops at the UPLB test area will be punished based on legal violations.

“The university hopes it will receive the right decision (in the Bt eggplant destruction case) because (the law says) not anyone should be allowed to enter the experimental site,” said Ebora. “If we had violation, then it should be stopped. But the field testing was compliant of all regulations.”

For the safety of consumers of GM products, National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) Director Carina G. Lao ensured that these crops produced by means of biotechnology are safe for human consumption through the crafting of food and environment safety policies on biotechnology and GM products with the help of the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP).

Biotechnology is also being attributed to the country’s self-sufficiency in corn according to Department of Agriculture-Biotechnology Chief Antonio Alfonso.

“If we did not start (commercializing) Bt corn 10 years ago, what would have happened to our corn sector. Now we have achieved self sufficiency in corn, and we’re now exporting corn because of Bt corn,” said Alfonso.

Alfonso further shared that the Philippines now even exports Bt corn silage.

To date, there are now more than 800,000 hectares of land planted by farmers to Bt corn.

There is no record of ill health effect or ill effect on the environment from Bt corn in the last 20 years since Bt corn was released in 1996, Alfonso stressed as he cited the case of Bt corn compared to Bt eggplant which uses the same technology. (PNA)